a grounded feeling
Rising from the past, my shadow
is running in silence to meet me
~ Anna Akhmatova
Charlie’s place. Present time.
The room is quiet and dark. The only source of any noise and light is the TV set on low volume. I don’t have to look to my side to know that he is still sleeping. But then again, it’s late, practically the middle of the night. I knew that I wouldn’t get any rest at my flat, so I just stayed at his, feeling strangely comfortable here and at ease; which (let’s face it) didn’t happen too often to me. In the entire messed up life that I got to live, moments like these could be counted just with the fingers of one hand. My parents at one point. Cara, my old roommate, Phil of course, and the man I lost - and now him. Not a lot to build on depending on what’s left of it all, but still probably more than I deserved.
I turn off the screen and look at him, the street lamps casting an orange glow on his tired face. Feeling my chest lift and fall, lungs needing more air as the worry flows all over me, leaking through the unstable cracks. May it not be anything serious, please. He’s just tired, I try to rationalize with myself, knowing how unwise my mind was reacting. But still, it always paid off to be careful. So, after some hesitance, I bend down and lightly press my lips to his forehead, no longer feeling any temperature. It appears cool and a small sigh escapes my throat. This was a thing that my mother taught me to do when I was little, or maybe it was just a thing that I copied naturally, without a second thought.
I look at him and slip my fingers lightly through his hair. He seems better now; it must have been just the exhaustion; he works too hard because he is so passionate about what he does. I fix the blanket higher, so he doesn’t get cold and sigh. Caring, kind, helpful. Loyal. All good qualities, and yet he’s hanging out with me. My hand shifts closer to his, fingers gently entwining. I feel the warmth and calm sinking into my skin and deep under my cells. My stare falls to the ground and a shade of sadness breaks through the serenity. You can’t fix them all, Charlie. Some of us are just meant to stay broken.
Without any warning, I feel my eyes start to sting, tears falling to the ground and sinking into the wooden boards. Tap, tap, tap. The repeated noise makes me snap out of the moment; I quickly shake my head, surprised by this little outburst. What was going on with me? As if I felt something coming, getting closer, lurking once again in the shadows. I let go of him and get up, dusting the dirt off my clothes that wasn’t even there. I hear a door in the corridor open-up and turn around. It’s Robert, apparently going to the bathroom; hair in a mess, wearing just a t-shirt on and stripy boxers. He notices me surprised as if he forgot I was even here and rubs his eyes, my lips lift into a smile.
What time is it?
Almost after three.
And you’re still here?
Was I making too much noise with my messy thoughts, or was it the TV that won that battle?
He stares at me for a moment, his mind not completely awake.
What? No, just needed to use the... I mean, drink a glass of water.
Of course, don’t mind me, I’m just heading out.
You were watching after him all that time, weren’t you?
I was being comfortable on a big sofa with free TV and food - and yes, in the meantime watched if your brother didn’t fall to the ground and hurt his good spirits and positive attitude. It would be a shame for the world.
You’re weird. You know that, right?
I think I heard something similar from a different Evans as well. Light years back, in a different life, it seems.
Robert gives me a warm smile and nods.
Sounds about right.
He starts to leave but I stop him, grabbing his arm; a tiny piece of my brain notes that there isn’t any magic effect like with Charlie. Somehow that felt like a relief to me - it was good to know that some people in this crazy world still remained normal and without any strange abilities. He looks at me, puzzled.
I just didn’t want him to get worse because of me, he’s done so much for me already.
I know, that’s not what I meant when I said you were weird.
Don’t worry, it’s just as if you used my second name; a thing permanently signed into my papers. I just wanted to be clear on the matter.
My grin spreads, and he mimics the notion. Robert seemed like a good and warm guy to be around. Another thing that apparently ran in this family. I silently wondered what their parents were like, very different from mine or with issues of their own? Probably the latter.
Say goodbye to Jenna from me.
I walk to the door, open it and add just before I leave.
And be lucky for your stars that you found someone that good.
My tone is light and as I’m out in the hallway, his strong voice still manages to reach my ears.
Oh, I do. Every single day.
As I walk down the stairs and into the street, I try not to think about anything. Setting my mind to a point where there is only numbness, forcing an invisible anesthetic to surge through my tired veins. It’s just me and my surroundings, no dark or light thoughts, just the now. The night is quiet and the traffic low, the chill of Autumn air cooling my heated cheeks, but not slipping under my clothes too deep. And as I slowly walk home, I try to ignore the bad feeling that still crawls deep under my skin. Even the evil could wait, after all, it was going to find me eventually. Just a matter of time.
In a different part of town.
A tall, brick building with a view on the river. Two men talk in hushed voices. One sits comfortably in his armchair, an elegant wooden cane leaning casually against it. The other one seems agitated, deep frustration like a thick cloud that surrounds him and fills him up with anger. He’s moving fast from one side of the room to the other; resembling an animal in a cage, pacing and ready to pounce at any moment.
She has been avoiding us.
The man that’s sitting doesn’t seem to be bothered by this revelation. His face seems almost expressionless, the wrinkles in the corners of his eyes and on his forehead only adding to his elegance. A strange mixture of kindness and cruelty prowling behind his eyes.
Rather, hiding I would say. Makes a much clearer description of what’s she’s doing, don’t you think?
Yes, like a slimy insect under a big city rock. A roach with a thick skull and a pain slitting that skull in half.
Probably why she stays afloat for so long. Roaches can live through an apocalypse if they please. I think I read it in The Times.
The last words are amused, not fitting the tension in the room.
Well, she isn’t going to be that lucky if I have a saying in this. Why are you so calm about this?
Dear, brother. Haven’t we been through this, uncountable times? Have we not succeeded each and every time?
Perhaps, but this is your problem, Jeremiah. All you care is to make them choose. To see if they can crawl out of their deep dark pit of existence, and for what, to estimate their humankind worth? Such nonsense, brother. Such a waste of my precious time.
Oh, stop gloating, you fool.
The frustration finally reaches the other man. He doesn’t enjoy this kind of attitude and being told how to handle his job.
This is something that I do. Those are my responsibilities and I carry it through according to plan. It is not my problem, that all you want are the numbers and statistics... or your gain and wealth.
The one that paces stops for a while and a dark smile changes his features for just a fraction of a second, only to disappear as quickly as it appeared. There is nothing stable about the fire.
I enjoy my luxurious advantages, yes. But do recall, that I also have responsibilities. And this assignment should not take so much time, because after all is said and done, the insects run out of options, they slowly crawl our way and find us.
And she will soon do the same.
But why isn’t it done yet? Her sanity must already lay in ruins. Her brain practically bleeding out. What is your explanation for this, brother?
She might have some assistance.
Her? That sorry excuse for a human being? She was in pieces before we even got to her. Before our messenger hunted her out.
Because he took from her what was dearest to her existence. He ripped her insides before he even pointed the gun at her head. She only really cared about him.
And he owed us.
No, he owed you, brother. He thinned your resources by less than a single hair.
Please, don’t talk to me of this absurdity. That man was already at his lowest and took a life after he stole from me, there had to be a punishment.
He was up against the wall. You took away his possibilities.
I gave him everything! I gave him those possibilities!
But your prodigy got greedy.
And he paid for it, and so did she.
Let’s not forget the man who brought her to that point, your little errand boy. She proved to be too much for him, his body tumbling down like a ragged doll - entertaining, but unnecessary.
Brother, that scumbag was worthless to even begin with!
There is no doubt about it. But I am simply painting you a picture of the situation. I am using all my grays and tones so you can see clearer. I give you the reasons and the consequences of actions. I give you the truth.
Fine, let it be as you say. But she will soon come to us, or we will find her - whichever comes first.
On that, I agree. The time is coming, we should prepare.
The room is left in silence as one brother leaves the room and the other remains in his place. Hands put together, fingertips touching as he ponders about the next step, eyes moving to the window, a view of the river soothing his mind. He stares at the thick clouds and the night slowly shifting into the day. The wind howls through the thick brick walls, moaning louder than the lost souls that he put to rest. He lights a cigarette and stares through the thick layers of smoke. There was no rush really, despite what his brother was stating so boldly and with unnecessary passion, rage clouding his vision. Such a waste of energy. Because ultimately, sinners don’t get lost for too long, they always reach their final destination.
His eyes fall to an expensive antique clock standing on the big mahogany desk. It’s round and has a black onyx base that it stands on, the seconds behind the glass slowly counting the remaining time. He smiles; five soft rings telling him the exact hour. Come on, sinners. It’s time to get up, a new day is beginning. He lifts his cane in the air and hits it once against the floor, the sound filling the silence and ringing against the glass. She will come, they all do in the end. The clock by his side once again calls upon the hour, something in the city shifts and life ruthlessly moves forward, not looking back on anyone.
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