Something In the Water
Epilogue: The Future
A man is sitting across a table from me. I don’t see him, but I know he’s there. We’re outside. It’s a café I think, seats just outside the front door on the patio. I can feel the warm spring sun shining against my face. My eyes staring down at the cup of coffee in front of me. My face distorted in the content’s reflection, the small vibrations. My hand is shaking.
I can smell his cigarette smoke, the light tendrils of gray wafting upward at the edges of my vision. It annoys me a little bit, but I’m okay with it. Plus there are other things that seem so much more important. The things that make me feel tired, hopeful, sad, confused. A muddled mess of conflictions coursing through my mind. Yet always thinking about the man sitting across from me.
Or at least that would be the words I would be using if I stopped to think about the force of emotions running through me.
But these feelings aren’t mine. At least I don’t think they are. There seems to be a distance there, a separation from them. It’s like I’m aware of them, but at the same time it feels just a little off. The energy behind them is dissipated. But they’re close. They feel so close.
“How’s he doing?” I feel me say, or not me I guess. The voice is feminine. My real voice doesn’t sound like that.
But how do I know that?
How much do I know? Who am I? Is that so important?
I try to turn my own thoughts to this, but they get pulled away by the person in whom they reside. Those images/thoughts I see in her mind. The man across the table. The youth…the youth bleeding on the cold white floor.
Not my head turns up to face the man. She knows his name…Simon. And I see him for the first time. I see the rings around his eyes. I see his paled skin and the tight, frayed edges around his face. His dark hair is badly disheveled. It’s obvious to me/not me that he hasn’t gotten much sleep.
Again a knowing question comes to my head: “How much time has passed?” But how can that question come if this is where my memories start? Again, who am I? How do I know these things?
“We think he’s stable,” my attention is turned, Simon replies finally, his head nodding slowly, “the bleeding has stopped at least. His breathing is normal. We’d know more if he was in a hospital for sure.”
She catches the light criticism in his voice. A familiar harsh retort comes to her mind, but she suppresses it. A flash of guilt, “I’m sorry. I just had to agree with what the Detective, was saying. What could the hospital possibly do? And what kind of attention would that bring to everything else about what was going on?”
“I know,” Simon nods again, “It’s just hard.” The man sitting across from me takes another drag on his cigarette as his voice goes silent. She can see the thoughtfulness in his eyes.
The person I’m in turns her head towards the street, her eyes watching the cars passing by, but not really watching them. I can hear her thoughts, better described maybe as the sensation of ideas not quite put to words. She worries about someone, this young man they’re talking about. She thinks about the young man as that troubled boy. She thinks about what Simon had done for him. This man, this one man that had been so pervasive in this Daniel’s memories. As that thought comes she pushes it back. This wasn’t supposed to be about Simon. She came here for Daniel she tells herself.
She thinks about the powers that she had. And now…now she knows for sure it is still there.
“I should have thanked you by the way, “ I hear Simon say, “for what you did at the lab. And for me.”
Her attention turns back to him. Simon’s eyes staring her over, his hand forward on the table she notices. She understands how he’s looking at her. She thinks she knows what it means. Her heart begins to beat faster. A memory. I see a laboratory. There was fighting going on. Simon unconscious on the ground. A woman, pale skin, black hair, half naked, standing over him…
My confusion continues.
I can feel her skepticism, and her suspicion, “I’m surprised you’re not angry. I can’t think of one red blooded male who wouldn’t kill for that kind of power. If what happened to Daniel happened to you…you could have any woman…you could be rich with almost no effort.”
Simon shrugs, “But that’s a two way street. Sure things would come a lot easier to me. But… so what? If something comes to you too easily you never really appreciate it.”
I can feel her heart beating faster. She’s nervous, almost light headed. I sense that she’s not used to feeling this way. Her eyes move away from him, her head turns, but her thoughts never leave him. She doesn’t want him to see those emotions playing across her face. Why is she feeling like this? It’s so weird. It’s supposed to be the other way around. It’s safer that way. It’s always been.
Could this really be him? Could this man really be like Daniel saw him? Could he really…?
She wants to use those powers. She wants to know. She doesn’t know for sure and she’s been wrong so many times before. But she knows that if she uses them and if he is being truthful with her. He’ll know what she did. And he’ll never be able to trust her again.
“I don’t buy that,” she manages after a moment, trying very hard to sound skeptical.
Simon smiles thoughtfully, his eyes turn up to look at me/her, shining with a light amusement. He senses what she’s really trying to do. He has to. And she guesses as much.
"Okay,” Simon says with a shrug, his eyes gazing across at her/me. Moving down towards her hand on the table. His own reaching out towards it and grasping it. His warm hand holding hers. He knows what she’s thinking, and he takes it as an invitation.
If my honesty matters to you test me.
Her body shakes. She pulls away. Her eyes can barely meet his. Why is she doing this? This whole thing was supposed to be about Daniel. How can he do this? What is he thinking? That hand resting on hers. All she has to do is think about it. The chemical will pass from her skin to his. His eyes will go blank. And then he won’t lie. And then he can’t lie. What is this feeling? It can’t be.
That grin, that warm grin resting on his face. His eyes searching hers, “Why’d you invite me out here Nikki?”
And she knows.
And then everything goes quiet. The scene around me begins to dissolve. The café disappears, the street, Simon and Nikki sitting together on a warm spring afternoon. Everything is dark. The images slipping away to nothing. And I am alone.
When my eyes open again it’s to a door. A closed door. A locked door. A bolted door. I’ve been here for awhile, maybe. It feels like awhile. I’m dangerous. They have to keep me separate from everyone else. The information swelling back at me. The things that this person knows. The things that this person is thinking about.
But I’m prepared this time. I know what’s going on. It’s not me, I tell myself. It’s not me. Even if I don’t know who “me” is.
There’s two other people in the room with this person. He?/She? is not paying them much attention. I’m lonely, afraid, almost hysterical. The thoughts flowing through this mind are so simple. This strange purpose washing over me. A solitary need that must be fulfilled.
This person doesn’t know what to do. They need a purpose. Without a purpose they are nothing. Other basic thoughts at the edges of this mind. There must be more of them. More of them must be made. But that comes later. Right now what this person must do is find someone, someone who can guide them.
And suddenly I guess who this person is. Or at least what kind of person this is. Her hands tapping against the door in front of her.
The hands a light tan and feminine. The door so completely familiar to me.
My own thoughts force themselves away from the emotions coursing through this person, her need, her instinctual drive. I’m already guessing who this is. I’m trying to understand what has happened. My ignorance bothers me. My eyes looking through hers. Thinking about the women behind me. Needing to know who they are.
A sense like somehow I might recognize them.
My own will pushes outward. I need to know. I need to understand. My consciousness straining through her eyes, hoping to see a telling sign. And then it happens. The person who’s eyes I look through; she recognizes me.
Her hands slide down from the door as her fear and arousal slowly slip backward and away. Thoughts enter into her mind, different thoughts, thoughts that she hasn’t had for…a day? Two days? Maybe. She doesn’t know for sure. The time itself seemed so long for her.
Her lips purse together to speak, the voice I recognize, “I am Azuma Matsushima” she says.
She can feel my presence. She knows who I am. I feel her muscles relax. Her thoughts slow down and become more distinct. I’m alive. I’m okay. She’s not alone…
Her head turns behind her, sensing my own wishes and complying with them. Her eyes survey the room behind her.
I’m in a bedroom. It’s familiar to me. I don’t know why.
I see a woman…two women. One of them is a curly brunette, pale white skin with freckles. She sits against the bed on the floor. Her t-shirt is ripped open and I can see her breasts. She has a small frame, but it’s more than compensated by the way her face smiles. Those dark eyes of hers distant, her hand plunged into her womanhood, fingering herself.
I think back to my last memory, the images flaring at me from the woman at the café table, Nikki.
This woman on the ground, the same woman standing half naked over the man named Simon…in the laboratory… trying to rape him.
The other woman looks older, but not by much, dirty blonde hair, and darker skin than the other, but still like a creamy white.
She has her back to me, I see the clasps of a bra there, but her lower half is bare. Her ass beautifully rounded. Her hips bucking hard against something that I can’t see.
I feel a pang of guilt and I don’t know why.
I know them, both of them, and I don’t know how.
I feel the relief…the joy flooding over the woman.“I’m so glad that you’re alive,” she whispers. Her hands rise to her face, “It’s you. It really is you Daniel.”
My mind pauses. I don’t know it, but there’s something about it.
At first it feels strange… I’d heard that name before…maybe it was just because that woman Nikki had known it. Maybe it was because that name was important to her.
But that didn’t seem right to me. There was a familiarity there beyond that.
And then I feel it, like a light thread tethering me, weak and frail, but undeniably there. I can feel my consciousness shift, following the direction of that weak line. The room adjacent to mine. I know it’s there, the bed, the dressers, the white walls. The digital clock sitting just on the bed stand. The Led Zeppelin poster hanging on the wall. The red baseball bat resting in the far corner.
The crumpled piece of paper. The crumpled piece of paper sitting in the top dresser drawer in a box that used to hold faded baseball cards. The letters written on that piece of paper: Sharon Sanchez…and the phone number underneath it.
That’s me. Daniel is me. My attention stares there longer. There’s a young man laying in that bed in that adjacent room; the dark hair, the deep brown eyes, the paled face turned against the pillow… unconscious…dead.
He should be…I should be…that bullet wound. That name on the piece of paper. Sharon standing over me. The horror in her eyes. The smoking gun in her hand.
And I remember.
Why did you feel that you had to do that?
And even as that thought enters my mind I feel myself being pulled away. The bedroom, Azuma, Alyssa, my mother Catherine, they all disappear as Nikki and Simon did before. A force of energy pulling me away. A string tearing me far from those things that I know.
I’m taken through darkness.
I’m staring down at a small river, my feet flung over the foundation of a shattered bridge. They’re dirtied converse all stars, tight feminine jeans. The breeze is cool against her skin. The westward sun tells me that it’s late in the afternoon.
This is where her mother brought her when she was young. This is where the old woman told her how she needed her to help the rest of the family. This is where she had her first kiss. This is where she always comes to clear her mind, to hide away from the rest of the world and just sort things out.
She told me this…
Sharon… Sharon standing over me. The horror in her eyes. The smoking gun in her hand.
Why did you feel that you had to do that?
I feel her emotions coursing through me. The blaring mass of memories colliding with my own. Her mind isn’t working like the other two. Her mind lacks focus on one object, or place. It drifts through memories, and thoughts.
I’m thinking of him…no…no…she’s thinking of me.
My consciousness turns back behind me aware of that light thread stretching back behind me some kind of unknown distance. I push away at the world I see through those eyes. The little energy that I have spent focusing in on it, strengthening it. Through it I remember. Through it I am. Daniel Bates.
I can’t let myself lose this.
And then I turn, looking down at her, into her. I could…what could I do? Her mind like an open book. I could write in it. I could make her anything that I want. I could fix this. She wouldn’t do anything like that again…no. I love her, what would I have if I changed that? But…how could she do that?
We had a plan. She didn’t even give it a chance.
A little boy surrounded by three others. He’s getting pushed around by them. He’s such a scrawny kid, weak, with a dumb little adorable smile. Such a sweet and lovable child. Why were those kids doing that? Something had to be done. Those other kids had to be stopped. And they would be. That boy would be protected. He had to be.
Immanuel…that boy…Sharon’s baby brother. He means so much-
I push back against them. Memories, Sharon’s memories bleeding into me. I don’t want them. Don’t give them to me. I don’t care. I trusted you. I trusted you!
Why did I trust you?
Her head lowers. I can feel her body shaking even though I know she isn’t cold. I can feel the burning at the edges of her eyes, the wetness. Silent tears.
I had too…I had too…please…her mind whispers. Her silent pleading to someone who isn’t there. Who is.
Me, Daniel Bates, a spring afternoon at a shattered bridge. A secretly shared moment.
Those feelings evaporate with her thoughts. She did what she had to. She did what she always had to do. Look after her family.
I can’t hate her. I can’t.
I press into her. Imagining myself as arms covering over her. Her body shaking. Her eyes wet staring outward.
It’s not her fault. Sometimes things just happen. These thoughts reaching out to hers. I’m here…I’m here for you, and I always will be.
I understand I had told her. And now…now I really do.
Her eyes close. I can feel her body relaxing as she lays back on the ground behind her. Her thoughts slow as she sighs.
For the time I begin to realize how little sleep she too has gotten.
Please… I hear her whisper again, but the cry not as strong as before. She’s tired. She’s so tired.
And maybe now, if just for a moment, she’ll rest.
I love you Sharon. We’ll work this out.
My thoughts turn behind me, that tether, that string leading to a bed far away, to that young man sleeping in it, to me.
I turn to Sharon one last time. Her breathing even, her thoughts diminishing, her eyes closed as the sun pours down warm from the sky. She’s okay. She’ll be okay.
It was time to go.
He’s dead. I killed him. That’s all there is to it.
I stare down at the stream floating along underneath me. The bright shafts of sunlight filtering through the leaves overhead. My eyes close. I can hear the birds chirping, the gurgling of the water as it floats lazily over the gravel river bed. I take in a deep breath and slowly exhale. The dank smell of wet earth fills my nostrils, and the faint hint of wildflowers carried on the light breeze.
My head turns up. My eyes stare back down the river as it winds through the trees. The sun reflects off of surface and it shimmers. I think about where it comes from. I think about where the river has been.
My mind floats back towards him.
I’d wanted to take him here. I didn’t tell many people about this place, or at least what it meant to me. Yet I’d talked about it with him like a dream. How could I not? The earnest way that he looked at me. That soft, deliberate hand against my face. Those warm lips pressing into mine. Everything about him was like that. When he wanted something he knew it, and he sought it, but he was never in a hurry about it. I’d never met a guy like that before.
My body starts to shake.
And I’d shot him. It didn’t matter that it was meant for Andrew. Why couldn’t he have just let me do what I had to? Didn’t he understand that someone like Andrew couldn’t be trusted? Not after what he had done. There was no room for forgiveness. Not after what he did. Not given what he could do. There couldn’t be.
He’s dead. I killed him.
And those words, those last words, mouthed through silent lips. What did he say? What could he possibly have said to me?
No. There’s no way. Not after what I’d done. Not after that moment. How could he? Why couldn’t he hate me? Why couldn’t he have stopped being that…that warm…that forgiving…?
Those eyes staring back at me, those soft, knowing eyes. And then they went empty.
He’s dead. I killed him.
But Carmen told me…
No…No, that can’t be. He can’t be alive. To have to look into those eyes again. What would I say? What could I say?
Andrew deserved it?
Why doesn’t that feel right? Why can’t that feel right?
That…that was unreal.
<That’s how it is for me.>
Why did you do that?
<Maintaining two minds takes more energy than I had to give.>
To save me then.
<All of this…I’ve never known anything like it before. Your life…that is more than enough thanks.>
So what happens now?
<You wake up.>
I mean after that.
<You probably know that better than me.>
No…no I don’t.
Yeah…yeah it is.
The flood of sensations come back to him. The warmth of the covers. The slightly acrid smell of his bedroom. That strangely odd sensation of skin rubbing against skin; wiggling his fingers and toes. That first new and almost forgotten breath.
His body hurts, his chest a dull pain with each slow intake of breath. His limbs feel numb and his head aches. He’s exhausted. His body wants his eyes to stay closed, to embrace oblivion. It wants to rest, but his mind wants to know. It has to know.
What has happened?
His eyes open and it’s daylight. The white walls of his bedroom. The digital clock on the bed stand. The Led Zeppelin poster on his wall. The scribbled note in that old box of baseball cards. Carol snoozing off in a chair by his bed.
His eyes pause there, taking in her familiar and welcome image.
Her face has weathered in much the same way he remembers seeing Simon’s. The lines underneath her closed eyes. Her hair disheveled. What he must have put her through. What he must have put all of them through. His eyes continue to stare upon her for several more moments.
And for some reason all he can think about is Sharon.
Daniel clears his throat. And Carol stirs. It’s the start of something.
He’s sitting up in his bed. The window outside his room is dark. The clock by his bedstand reading in the late sevens. Carol, Nikki and Simon sitting on either side of the bed. The young Catherine, his mother in the other room, past the closed door, properly clothed now, Azuma and Alyssa, the last of his old slaves finding sanity now in his recovery.
Carol, Nikki, and Simon, together in the room with Daniel, the door closed.
There had been the joy at finding him awake. They’re been the hugging and asking him how he felt. The relieved smiles on all of their faces. The warm expressions of love that he had come to treasure. But that time had come and gone.
Daniel’s thoughtful expression betrays the news of what they had come to tell him.
The fight in the lab. The bullet that had almost killed him. How his slaves had turned on any male that they could find, seeking sanity through sex and the making of other master peoples.
Sharon had tried to fight them back on her own, but the pure power of his unfettered slaves had been too much.
If Nikki Pappadakus hadn’t been there, recovering fast from the effects of the gas, and free of her own mind… If she hadn’t fought them back who knew what would have happened?
The truth of that statement running through Daniel’s mind. He really didn’t know. The creature within him didn’t know. There were only assumptions. There were only speculations.
But the truth remained of what happened soon after.
Sharon ran as the others began to recover.
Andrew gave himself up, leaving behind however many slaves he had accumulated. Young and beautiful women pining for sex, completely obedient, and simple of mind. Lydia one of them.
All of them seeking orders in their new master…Daniel.
“They’re over at my apartment right now,” Nikki says with an incredulous scoff, “Andrew really did a one over on them. All they ask about is sex, and when you’ll be coming over to give it to them.”
Daniel nods his head thoughtfully, barely giving time to what Nikki has just told him. That one other piece still resting in his mind.“Has Sharon…?” He begins, his words trail off, almost too afraid to ask the question.
He can see Nikki make to say something, that flash of her anger in her eyes, her eyes glance over to Simon, she pauses. Her mouth closes.
“No one’s seen her Daniel,” Simon says after a moment, “She’s barely even talked to her sister. There’s a lot going on.”His eyes on Daniel after a pause, “So what do you want to do?”
Simon’s eyes, Nikki’s eyes, Carol’s eyes on him. They all sit there, in front of him, their eyes waiting for some kind of response. His head turns away from them. His own thoughts ringing there.
“Daniel.” Simon reiterates with a straight finality. The single word pressing home the facts that lay in front of him.
It was his decision. What was he going to do about Andrew’s slaves? What was going to happen with this creature inside of him? How could he possibly hope to keep all of this secret? He feels those eyes with a burning intensity. He started this, even if it had been forced on him, even if he didn’t want any of it. It was his call on what happened next.
He can feel a slight shake in his body at those thoughts. His breath deepens as his eyes burn. Why does he want to cry? He doesn’t want to think about this. He just wants to think about Sharon…
He just wants to think about Sharon.
His body starts at the touch against his shoulder. His head turns up to the hand resting there, to the woman sitting on the bed beside him, her eyes soft and concerned. “It’s okay,” is all Carol says her arms wrap around him as his body leans against her, “It’s okay.”
“That wasn’t fair Simon.”
“I know Carol. But… we don’t have one of those…things sitting inside of us. And Andrew has left a complete and utter mess behind him as he checked out.” His head turns back to the door behind him, closed, his bedroom, and Nikki “Daniel is the only one who can fix this.”
“He just woke up. We should be giving him more time. He’s still just a kid.”
Simon shakes his head. “You know there isn’t the time. Yes, we had Andrew’s slaves call anyone who might be missing them, but how long is that going to work? And who knows what else might happen with that creature inside of him?”
“He’s still just a kid.” Carol persists, “We need to just be here for him. If there is anyone else who should know this, you should. He’s been through a lot.”
Simon sighs, his head turning back towards the door, “I know.” He says his thoughts reaching towards the boy on the other side of it. His eyes staring at the door. His thoughts move slowly to that girl he met soon after coming off the plane, dark skin and dark intelligent eyes, the way that Daniel looked at her. The way that she looked at him. “What he needs,” he begins slowly with a nodding realization, “Is more than what we can give him.”
He turns back towards Carol, already seeing that she understands where his thoughts are going. “You mean Sharon.”
Simon shrugs, “What was the first question out of his mouth when he woke up?”
“It should be her decision to come and see him. She hasn’t. “
“Daniel jumped in front of the bullet that was meant for Andrew. Not only did she shoot the person she loved, but he’s surrounded by close friends with accusing eyes.”
Carol’s eyes harden, “That doesn’t matter Simon. She needs to face up for what she did. I don’t know if you realize, but Daniel almost died. He would have if he didn’t have one of those things inside of him. She wasn’t there in the lab as he was bleeding to death on the floor. She wasn’t there as my hands went red holding those rags hard against his chest. She wasn’t there as we kept watch over him on those long, terrible nights.“
Carol’s body begins to shake as the words pour from her mouth. Her eyes tear up as her mind relives those days. Not knowing… never knowing if Daniel would make it. She wanted to take him to the hospital. And always aware of the person who had put him there.
Simon moves to hold her, but she pushes him away. Carol’s breath slow and measured her words coming out in a simmer. “That woman is a cowardly bitch” she whispers.
Simon just looks back at her for several long moments. A thoughtful head nods, but his body shrugs. He turns back towards the door, “He still loves her.”
“I can’t see why.”
They can hear them talking on the other side of the door, the words indistinct. Daniel knows how his creature could make it so that he could hear them. His eyes fall on Nikki, sitting on the edge of his bed, her head turned back towards the door, thinking about how she could be doing the same.
“So Sharon stayed to fight?”
She shakes her head smiling, “You’re really stuck on her aren’t you?”
“Yeah” is all that Daniel says.
This causes Nikki’s head to shift. She turns back from the door. Her eyes resting on the young man sitting upright in the bed. “It’s just that simple then?”
Eyes staring back with a shrug, “Why wouldn’t it be?”
Nikki stares at him for several moments. He sees how she contemplates his words in the eyes that shift. They pause as her mind catches on something, a light scoff and her head turns back towards the door.
“You shouldn’t do that you know” Daniel says.
“What” she says without turning “, ignore the naivete of a little boy?”
“No, spy on their conversation.”
She scoffs, “You’ve used your powers for far worse.”
“How does that justify it? What would Simon think?”
Again she scoffs, not bothering to turn her head, “What do I care?”
She starts a moment, again her face goes thoughtful, her head doesn’t move, but this time the one has softened, “What do you know about that?”
“You saw a lot of my life. You saw how I saw him. You asked him out for coffee.”
Her body turns back towards him, her eyes again shifting as her thoughts move. She wonders about how he knows that last part. She thinks about how that time had ended.
“It can be that simple Nikki. There are good men out there.”
She shakes her head, “You’re such an idealist.”
Those piercing eyes, “What’s that have to do with it?”
“You don’t understand.”
Those eyes, “I know what I see. I know what you see.”
Quiet envelops the room. The night traffic of the nearby street is heard from the far window. The faint call of birds not quite put to rest. Nikki hunched over the edge of the bed, her eyes staring at the ground, deep in her own thoughts. Daniel staring at her from the far side. The conversation on the other side of the door largely forgotten.
“He makes me feel awkward,” she finally says, “And that’s scary.” Her head turns up to him, malice lit on the frayed edges of her eyes, “Are you happy?”
He stares back, unfailing, “That wasn’t the point and you know it.”
The fire burns away. The words striking her with a strange unease. Her head falls back towards the ground. She turns back towards Daniel. Her eyes back towards the door. They pause there for several moments. Her thoughts go to that man standing on the other side of that door.
The cigarette smoke wafts up into the open air. A cool spring evening, a clear sky and a full moon resting in the heavens. Simon sits hunched over the balcony rail, his cigarette in one hand, a can of beer in the other. His eyes stare outward, the city streets and houses stretching out into the far distance, the world aglow. An easy grin rests across his face.
His body turns to the screen door sliding open behind him. His eyes pause to the dark haired woman crossing the threshold out. Her pale white skin turned blue in the dim light. Dark eyes that catch on his as she crosses the short distance, taking a place next to him.
Her exposed arm rests next to his, the lightest touch against his skin. She follows his stare out to the city and beyond. Simon takes a drag on his cigarette a sip at his beer.
“You’re drinking?” Nikki inquires with a quiet amusement.
The grin broadens across his face, “Celebratory, we dodged a real bullet,” a thoughtful chuckle “, no pun intended.”
Nikki just nods her head. A cool evening breeze passes along the top balcony.
Simon turns towards her, “Do you want one?”
He reaches for the six pack at his feet, his hand pulls at the tab, snapping it open. Her hands grasp it.
Simon drinks. She takes a thoughtful sip.
Her head turns back beyond the balcony. Little lights dotting the landscape below.
“How’s Daniel?” Simon asks
“Sleeping” she says.
“Good, he needs it” with a nod and sip at his beer.
Leaves rustling in the wind. The sky a tempered purple by way of the city lights.
“He really looks up to you, you know?” Nikki says
A slow smile and a nod. A car passes by the street underneath. She looks over at him. Simon glances back with a smile.
"I’ve been meaning to ask this,” he says
Those eyes still on her, his body leaning closer, “Why’d you pull away back at the café?”
Her stare fixated on his for several moments. Her thoughts. She wants to lie. It’d be easier. It’d be safer. How do you admit feelings for a man that you’ve just met? How do you admit feelings when so many times before- “It’s not that easy” she says suddenly, pulling back.
His head turns back and out, his thumb tapping at his arm thoughtfully. “I think it’s a shame that it can’t be.”
Simon takes a final drag on his cigarette, casting the butt out over the balcony. The burning ember falling, almost floating down to the ground. His eyes follow it.
Simon just smiles, shaking his head, “Daniel told me about happened with him and you in the emergency room.” The smile fades from his face as his eyes turn towards her, “Certainly beats anything I could say to a girl at a bar.”
Her eyes falter.
He sighs, “It’s up to you Nikki.”
She says nothing, her head turned down towards the ground.
Simon sighs again, surveying her, waiting. His eyes flick back, the sliding doors, the rest of the apartment. All that’s should be said has been said. He has nothing else. He shakes his head slowly, a grimace crossing his face. His steps move him towards the screen door. He reaches for the handle.
“You’re actually pulling the walk away move huh?”
Those words give him pause, that tonal shift, stronger than just a moment ago. A knowing smile crosses his face. He turns his head back towards her, “It’s worked before.”
She can’t help but smile, even as what she means to say remains serious, “You live in Chicago.”
Simon shrugs, “It feels good. That’s rare enough isn’t it?”
She nods her head, “Just see where it goes?”
He turns back towards her, “Why not?”
She approaches him. Her eyes on him and only him. Long legs walking slowly along the open concrete. Her body pauses just inches away from his.
He feels her warmth radiating off of her.
His hand rises towards her head, his fingers caressing her soft cheeks. Nikki’s eyes close as his lips press into hers. His warmth slow and careful, but certain. Her arms pull him close and hold him there.
The full moon in the heavens. A first held kiss on the balcony.
“Carol, I’m fine seriously. ”
“Daniel you almost died. Pardon me for worrying about you.”
He cracks an almost giddy smile. Things were feeling light. For the first time in what felt like an eternity the burden on his shoulders felt almost lifted. “Carol I feel great. There’s no need to worry about me. You’re other kids need you. You can look after them.”
It’s Tuesday morning. A day started bright and clear. A late spring sun shining in a clear sky.
“Nikki’s taking the day off. I can hardly see why I shouldn’t.”
Daniel’s eyes casting out and around him at Nikki, Simon and Carol, the four of them marching down the apartment stairs together. His own attention looking past the light worry in Carol’s face, seeing the knowing smiles passing between Nikki and Simon. His head turns forward, the cars waiting outside, the rest of his life stretching out before him.
He thinks about his future with hope.
“I can,” he hears Nikki reply with a light chuckle, “Seriously Carol, we’ll look after him.”
Sharon, Andrew, the slaves… As strange as the list of things seemed it was something to do and most important of all it was almost done. The creature from the shower, that something in the water, that catalyst that had started such a long chain of events. How could all of this have happened in just a couple short weeks? Daniel’s own inward thoughts bringing him to this slow realization.
In the wake of could have been a lot of good had been.
The four of them come to the final landing, the long hallway leading to the glass doors and the world outside.
They were going to see Sharon.
Things were going to work out.
The door pressing closer. That bright smile in Daniel’s face,Do you think about the future much?
<I don’t know. The future is weird.>
The creature within waits for a response. It’s eyes looking through those of his host sees the cause for its partner’s sudden silence. The young woman coming up the walkway; dark skin and deep brown eyes shining with a strange yet radiant luster. A woman who hesitates at the sight of one young man standing at the clear glass doors of his apartment.
A young man who in her eyes and carriage she sees the careful and confident kindness that only comes with a person who is completely comfortable with himself.
Sharon Camila Sanchez standing just outside Daniel Robert Bates’ apartment with uncertain eyes. Yeah...yeah it is he finally thinks in response and wonderful.
Simon, Nikki, Carol, they all pause as they look out the door. Surprise registers across Carol’s face. Simon exchanges an exultant glance with her. Nikki just smiles.
They turn their backs, the three of them, heading back up the stairs as that one young man opens the door out. The morning sun risen and shining, his legs carrying him fast along that stretch of concrete, almost running.
They pause just long enough to look back; his arms wrapped around her, the tears in her eyes, that smile shining across her face.
That pressing kiss in an unexpected moment of jubilation.
Three close friends turn their heads away.
The moment was theirs.
The moment was his.
And not meant for prying eyes.