Lying on my side, I watch Nate sleeping. At times I still have trouble believing he’s really here. I gently run my hand down the side of his face, onto his chest, and then snuggle into him. He’s been my rock, my centre, and my calm over the last couple of weeks. I feel so lucky, and closing my eyes, smile.
His arm moves, and pulls me closer. “Good morning,” he says sleepily, brushing a few stray strands of hair off my face, and sending shivers down my spine, before lifting my head to kiss me.
Changing his position, so we’re face to face, he kisses me again, running his hand through my hair, and down my back. Another shiver slips through me, and my skin erupts with goose bumps at his touch. Whether that was an invitation or not has become irrelevant as I wrap myself around him. If there’s one thing I can’t get enough of, it’s him, and as his body surrenders to the inevitable, I know from his touch that he feels exactly the same.
When we eventually lay back, still wrapped in each other’s arms, he starts grinning.
“What’s so amusing? And it’d better have nothing to do with what we just did, or your next breathe may just be your last,” I say poking him in the ribs.
“Ouch, of course it doesn’t,” he says laughing, “but you have to admit that wouldn’t be a bad last memory.”
Smiling I poke him a little harder. “Well it just may be yours if you don’t spit it out.”
“Today’s the day, or should I say E day,” he laughs at his joke as I drop my head. “You’ve been avoiding Eric, but you agreed last night it was time you dealt with him. Besides we don’t know how much longer he’ll hang around.”
“I know,” I groan rolling fully onto my back.
It’s true I do need to deal with him. The whole disappearing thing when I was little, and leaving me to discover my abilities on my own, the hard way, left me with questions, a lot of questions.
For starters – why? There are a whole lot of whys, although to be honest, Eleanor did answer some of them for me in her rant, but not all. Why abandon me? Why not look for me before now? Why save Nate, and the boys, from the system, and not me? Why shut me out of a life where abilities are as natural as walking, or breathing?
There are plenty more questions, and it’s not that I don’t want the answers, it’s just that the reality of finally having those answers scares me a little. I mean, to some degree, having those questions, but no answers, created who I became. I know speaking to him won’t change that, but can I handle even a glimpse of what might have been, who I might have become? And if his answers are even slightly reasonable can I let go of the anger I feel towards him, anger I’ve carried with me for so long?
I roll back into Nate, and his arm automatically wraps around me.
“Maybe I can leave it for just one more day.”
“I thought you had questions.”
“I do, I just don’t know if I want to hear the answers.”
He throws the quilt off me. “Come on, up.”
“Fine, but I’m having a shower first.”
Throwing some clothes on I head for the door, but pause as my eyes settle on the amber necklace hanging from the doorknob. I’ve refused to wear it since all the shit went down. I was going to chuck it, but Nate thought I should wait until I’d cooled down to decided what to do with it. Good thing too, because now I have a much better idea.
Slipping it off, and into my pocket, I head down to the bathroom, lock myself in, strip, and climb into the shower. It’s still hard to believe this little luxury is here, and no longer a dream.
This new place is so different to our last one, and permanent. We finally have a permanent home. We’re just one of many warehouses, in an industrial area, and hiding in plain sight.
It’s only taken Trent a couple of weeks to create our new reality. He’s started a courier business as cover for what we really do, and this place has everything we need. For the business there’s a reception area with a kitchenette, and toilet, behind it, and out the back there’s a large warehouse. Then at the top of the stairs there’s a fancy office, and meeting room. The rest of the area up here is only accessible via a secure door, which is where we live.
We use the first six offices as bedrooms, and the last two, which have had the dividing wall removed, as the systems room. Further along there’s this bathroom with the shower, and toilet, and then a large kitchen. Another secure door at the back of the kitchen opens out to stairs that go down into a separate smaller warehouse, which is for our personal use, and where the boys and I train, away from prying eyes. I love this place.
Letting the water run over my head I think about hiding in here all day, but a bang on the door, and Taylor’s voice, kills that idea.
“For fuck’s sake Mia hurry up I need a piss,” he yells.
Back to reality. Drying off and dressing quickly, I throw the door open, and step out. “You could use the loo downstairs, or a bottle if it’s an emergency you know.”
“Downstairs is occupied, and the last time I used a bottle you yelled at me,” he says slamming the door.
I laugh. Fighting for bathroom access is only a small thing, but it’s something normal, and I’m beginning to love normal.
Taking a deep breath, and letting it out slowly, I head into the kitchen knowing Eric will already be there, like he has been for the last few days, and sure enough, he’s sitting at the table. This is the moment of truth.
Grabbing a coffee I ask, “You want one?” It’s more from habit than good manners, with him anyway.
“Never touch the stuff, and you shouldn’t either, it’s not good for you.”
“Yeah, well a lot of things aren’t good for me, but I’m not giving any of it up, and I’m certainly not going to swap coffee for water,” I say gesturing to the mug of water in front of him as I pull out a chair opposite. “Time for show and tell, Eric.”
He stares at me for what feels like forever.
“You know you look just like her, in the face I mean. You have my colouring. It’s Jade that’s the spitting image of her.”
Why mention Jade? I no longer know where she is. Nate had been right. As soon as he could Eric moved her, and Aunt Sarah. He gave them new identities, and pasts, which would have been a blessing for Jade. Apparently now they believe they are mother, and daughter.
Oh, I’d been right about Aunt Sarah. She wasn’t our Aunt, wasn’t related to us at all. She was just a lonely woman he thought we’d be safe with. He’d made her believe we were her orphaned nieces.
“I don’t want to talk about Eleanor, or Jade. Neither of them are a part of my life. Eleanor never was, but Jade never will be again. I want to hear what happened, why my life turned to shit.”
I know that sounds selfish, but no-one can erase my memories, and fill my head with puppies, and rainbows, so I want answers.
He looks around the room. “Doesn’t look too much like shit to me, and the guys look after you.”
“You’re an arsehole. You know what I mean. I lived through twelve years of hell before finding these guys, and I want to know why.”
I’m having trouble controlling the anger I feel towards him. When something’s personal the control I’ve mastered seems to slip. I still have a lot to learn.
He sits in silence staring at me.
“You have exactly five seconds to start talking, or you can fuck off out of here, and get away from me, and my friends.”
“You like,” his eyes lower to his mug, “love him? Nate?”
“What the fuck does Nate have to do with this? Stop avoiding my question.”
He sighs. “I made sure Eleanor crossed over, and then ran with you two looking for a safe place to live, and settled here. I knew it would be the last place she’d look. You were what she had wanted all along, and I was too blind to see it. If I’d only realised the truth,” he slowly shakes his head, “not been so stupidly in love with her, so blinded by her act, not played into her hands …”
He continues with the slow head shake as if that very action will erase those memories, maybe make everything all right. I can see from his face that Eleanor really did a job on him too. Guess she did a job on all of us, but that doesn’t excuse his actions.
Looking up at me he says, “That woman at the warehouse, that wasn’t the Eleanor I fell in love with, wasn’t the woman who gave birth to you. She was never that twisted, that cruel. I guess our disappearance did something to her, something that couldn’t have been foreseen…”
His voice trails off as his eyes get that faraway look in them, the look that tells you he’s gone somewhere else.
Slowly he refocusses. “Anyway, I met Sarah, she became a friend. Back then Eleanor had people looking for me as a way to find you. They had no idea why she wanted me they just knew she did, and you’ve seen yourself she can … could be very persuasive. So, when I thought they were closing in on me, I made the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, and left you with Sarah. I was sure you’d be safe with her as long as no-one could connect me to her. I wasn’t sure though, back then, if anyone your mother sent would know about you, but I knew there was no way she would tell them unless she absolutely had to.”
“Eleanor already told me some of that, you were there, although I don’t know how conscious you were through most of her ranting, and I over-heard you talking to the guys a couple of times. I know you knew I could hear. I’m clever enough to piece the fragments together. I want to know the rest.”
“The rest, what rest? I fell in love with a lie. I brought her here to this world to have a family, a real family, and live in safety. She was right. I never caught on, never saw the way she reacted to Jade, not really. I knew she was a little distant, but the doctors told me it was just post-natal depression, the baby blues, and assured me everything would get better, would be okay as she bonded with the baby. Once she was pregnant with you it all started to become clearer. She frequently rubbed her stomach talking to you, telling you what a wonderful life you were going to have ahead of you, and the whole time she was ignoring the baby she already had.”
“How in the hell could you have thought that was normal?”
“Like I said, the doctors told me it would be okay. I didn’t know any better, but when I overheard a couple of strange, late night phone calls, and then found a list of times, and co-ordinates, that I knew were shifts in the veil between the universes, everything suddenly fell into place, suddenly become crystal clear. That was the moment I realised I’d been played all along because of who I was. That’s when I knew I had to strand her here until your birth, and then force her over without you, just as a shift was closing. Once that was done I fled with both of you.”
“If you did all that to protect us, protect me, why leave us with Sarah unprotected?” I ask a little quieter.
Like it or not his version of the story, or his way of telling it, melts the wall I’ve built up over the years between us, just a little.
“I left because I knew I was a target, and would draw them to us. For fuck’s sake, I left to protect you.”
That solidifies the wall again for me.
“To protect me, wow, that has to be the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard of for abandonment, my protection. But it didn’t protect me, did it? Your actions ripped our family apart, and took my sister from me when I was five. All I ever knew for sure when I was a kid was that at some point the people I came into contact with would also abandon me. First you, then Sarah because she couldn’t stand to touch me, and then every family I was placed with eventually threw me back into the system. Where was the protection for any of them? Why didn’t you protect them from me?”
“Fuck it, I swear I had no idea you would start to develop your abilities so young. You should have been closer to nine or ten before that happened,” he thumps the table, “damn it Amber, –”
“Don’t call me that,” I yell at him. “Amber is dead. She died when I let Jade go. The moment Amber ceased to exist for Jade she ceased to exist for anyone. Never call me that again.”
Reaching into my pocket I take out the necklace, and shoot it across the table to him.
“This is yours. I don’t want it.”
Picking it up, he turns it over in his hand, and then pockets it, before looking down at his now empty mug.
“Will you consider, one day at least, using your real last name?” he asks quietly.
I look at him, and start laughing.
“Mia Zaphire, no I don’t think so, sounds a little too flash to me. Mia Jones suits me just fine, and you’ll just have to get use to calling me that.”
Nodding slowly he says, “You know I did come back for you on your sixth birthday, but you were gone, and I had no way of finding you.”
Too little, too late. Does he really think that will make any difference? Really that statement just increases the anger already building in the pit of my stomach.
“So what, because you couldn’t find me you decided to adopt a son instead, and raise, and train him? Not to mention create yourself a little family with the other guys as well who, I believe, look at you as if you’re some wonderful big brother. Girls not good enough for you?”
He looks at me shocked.
“He told you about all that?”
“Of course he fuckin’ told me about that. He told me about this wonderful guy called Eric, who I just had to meet, the guy who saved him from the system, saved them all. The person who was the closest to being a father that he’d ever known,” I snap.
I’m starting to lose it. I can feel my control slipping.
“Yes, I saved him, and the guys. The foster system is often used to hide our kind because the kids can be moved from family to family. It’s just the way the system is, and makes it harder to find them. They’re not moved around because they’re showing signs of their abilities, they’re generally found just as that’s happening. I only found them because I was looking for you. I never stopped looking for you, and I had no way of knowing that you’d slipped through the cracks, and disappeared when you were twelve.”
“Well you couldn’t have looked too fuckin’ hard. I was in that system for almost seven years.”
He glares at me. “I never fuckin’ stopped looking, and when I eventually found you a couple of weeks ago I sent Nate in to protect you.”
“You really want to there? Okay,” I say glaring back at him. “Why didn’t you come yourself? Why send someone else? And why not warn us, or at least Nate, that the only ‘Other’ that was actually after me was that psycho bitch? Why let me find out the fuckin’ hard way?”
“I thought it best to send in someone young, thought they’d be accepted better, and at that point I couldn’t face you, I’d let you down badly. Anyway, you wouldn’t have believed who I was, and nobody would have believed me about her.”
“You couldn’t face me? You gutless prick. I’d have had no idea who you were, and you’re right, I never would’ve believed you, but then there wouldn’t have been a reason to tell me who you were until the shit hit the fan, would there, which is roughly the point when Nate decided it was time to come clean. So, as you didn’t have the guts to come yourself you have no right to get shitty about what happened with your hand picked replacement. Sending someone like Nate in, well you have no-one but yourself to blame that you sent in a type I like.”
“You have to end that, it can’t go on, it’s a mistake. I know from bitter experience.”
“So, what are you saying? Do you think Jade’s a mistake? Do you think I’m a mistake?” I yell.
“None of this shit would have happened if I hadn’t –”
I jump up causing my chair to flip backwards, crashing to the floor, and lean across the table.
“Don’t ever compare me and Nate, with you and her. Fuck off!”
Storming out the room I pass everyone who has gathered in the hallway, run downstairs, and out the front door. I have to get out of there, and cool down, before I do some very real damage to Eric, and the room.