A huge thank you to my friend and editor Flip McHooter, you make writing this story that much more enjoyable for me.
For anyone who wants to contact me, here's my address: firstname.lastname@example.org
All rights reserved. No parts of this story may be transmitted or reproduced in whole or in part in any form or by any means, mechanical or electronic, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the Author, except where permitted by law.
Copyright ©2013, 2014 Black Arrow
The life and times of a teenage Russian spy stationed in the US of A.
It was in me, it was all around me. The suffocating grip it had on my brain, lungs and heart was excruciating. Like it had come to life and was pounding the breath right out of me. Then I quickly came to the realization that it actually was.
I couldn't breathe.
Not because I was forced to. No, it was self-induced, a voluntary reflex for self-preservation. The cold I was feeling, plus the intruding weight of darkness surrounding me wasn't metaphorical. I was submerged underwater. I fought to move, to save myself, but I quickly came to the chilling conclusion that I was restrained. My arms were tied behind something, some sort of cylindrical structure- like a post. I racked and pulled against my restraints but the effort proved futile, I was tied down good.
Too good. By an expert hand.
Vital seconds were ticking by before my body would fail and I would be forced to take a breath. Swallow gallons of acrid salt water.
There was a sudden, violent movement by the water above as the waves moved towards shore and I finally got what felt like my first chance to breathe in ages. Be it temporarily, but I was grateful for every inhale that wasn't filled with water.
My lungs were burning and my eyes stinging from being exposed to the salt water for such a prolonged time. I don't know how long it had been exactly, but it was now high tide and the breaks didn't come as frequently as they did before.
But I think above all, the thought that won out over my current concerns was when would the sun rise again. Taking all stimulus into account, I think what got to me the most was the light deprivation. Just black.
I saw nothing. So in those stretched out moments when my entire being was covered under the body of water and all surface sound was muted, I felt as though I was nothing, neither dead nor alive. Just a void in a sea of blackness. That emptiness was so eerie, sinister even, that I'd considered taking a breath and inhaling all that water. I knew at least then that the pain of drowning would be far better than the nothingness- at least I would feel something.
"You've been quiet for quite a while, soldier. I CAN'T HEAR YOU! How are you going to convince me of your resolve?" a deep commanding voice shouted from somewhere in the dark. Along the shore line I presumed. I couldn't tell for certain any more, I was so disoriented and deathly thirsty. All the same, I knew that drinking the salt water, as tempting as it was, would be a grave error.
"I will show no mercy," I croaked, barely recognizing my own voice. Talking felt like sand paper scratching down my throat but I had to persist. I had to carry on until he found my response satisfactory. Sense finally dawned on my murky mind and reminded me of how I'd gotten into this situation. I was being punished.
I hadn't shown the correct amount of aggression, ruthlessness required in a practice drill. That was seen as a weakness that had to be washed out by our leaders.
"I can't hear you! Say it like you mean it, soldier!" the older man hollered in his very distinct, thick Russian accent. He was our master. Our general. The head of LoneStar.
The recollection of my tormentor jolted me back into consciousness. I was gasping and heaving for air like it was actually happening all over again. I ran a shaky hand through my clammy forehead and wet hair. I was sweating profusely. My sheets drenched. I grappled furiously around me through my covers with no logical aim, maybe looking for something solid to hold on to. I hadn't seen the man in years. Not once since I'd been stationed in America, yet his face, voice, and domineering presence still haunted me.
I sat up, my chest heaving, rising and falling unevenly. I closed my eyes and tried to calm myself. Concentrate, Hunter, this isn't real. I repeated to myself, it isn't real, just a dream. But that didn't do much to ease my conscious because the previous statement was a lie.
It wasn't JUST a dream. It was a memory. One of many I had tried my best to repress over the years but tonight it had caught up with me in a grand fashion.
I turned on my side, my alarm clock flashed vibrantly in the moonlit room. It was only 2 am. I tossed myself back onto my pillow, staring up at the ceiling, besides the discomfort of the wet bed sheets my head was pounding.
My body was still shivering as remnants of the dream caused sporadic shaking fits. I still remembered the cold, like it had imprinted itself into my bones. I hated it when I turned like this. I was always in control of my thoughts-my emotions, but no man held controlling stake over his sleeping mind, no matter how hard he tried. My subconscious held my truth and it wouldn't let me forget it.
Seeing as my sleep was thoroughly killed for the night, I had no choice but to roll out of bed. Now that I was upright I could clearly make out the wet impression that was shaped like my body, imprinted into the sheets. I stood there feeling heavily exhausted but I knew it unlikely that I would be getting any more rest tonight.
I moved sluggishly into the bathroom and reached into the medicine cabinet for something I didn't use often, or at all- Tylenol. I rolled the small bottle in my hand and eyed it considerately, if not a bit suspiciously. I'd had the intention of taking it but now I wasn't so sure. I'd rather have this headache pulse and hopefully give my mind something else to torture itself with than the things I'd endured in my formative years. Before I had accepted that my destiny was never my own. I was a pawn, a soldier, in a larger scheme that far outweighed my individual worth.
I must have stood there for quite some time contemplating the container in my hand because my skin began to feel tight as the sweat began to cool. I felt inexplicably filthy at that moment and knew it had absolutely nothing to with perspiration; regardless, I opted for a steamy shower.
I stepped into the glass confines and just cranked up the heat with not a seconds thought into the matter. The torrential down pour of scorching water was a mere gimmick trying to distract myself with the feel of the water. I attempted to scrub off the memories that plagued me and my weakness to them off of myself. I thought I had long outgrown the nightmares. I believed I had plugged that hole. Sealed it shut.
I guess I was wrong.
They used to come a lot more frequently when I was younger, but I was older now-stronger. This relapse in my development pissed me the fuck off. Regression was not a process I wanted to see manifesting in any part of my life.
The steaming hot water served its purpose. Even if brief, I was able to lose myself, my mind to the feel of it as it lapped and stung at my body as it ran down my contours and sunk away down the drain.
I made it back into my room, got dressed in a loose fitting white tank top and black boxer-briefs. I still needed some assurance that I was actually awake and on dry land-I needed to be in something breathable. The feeling of suffocation was still fresh and near. After changing my sheets and discarding the soiled ones in the hamper, I decided to go downstairs and get a warm glass of milk.
I felt increasingly stupid as I resorted to a routine my mom repeated every time my nightmares kept me up at night when I was younger. I never told her what they were about and she stopped asking after a while, assuming they were about my `birth parents'. The way they were brutally killed in front of me when I was five- but it wasn't. Yes, the young Californian couple was killed in front of me back in West –Africa, but they were complete strangers who were unfortunate enough to fit the character profile we needed for my cover. The dreams were purely related and exclusive to my conditioning.
Mom would stay up all night with me and tell me stories about her childhood until I fell back asleep. I hadn't had one of these in years so I wondered if the milk would help sans mom's reassuring voice and presence- only one way to find out. There was no way in hell I would let her or anyone else know that they were back. She had made me see a shrink for three years straight back when I was a kid. Dr Roden. The only thing that stopped me from driving his stupid pen into his neck during those tedious and fruitless sessions was the knowledge that my mom was waiting in the next room.
I walked through the dark house, not wanting to wake anyone as I crept down the stairs. I flicked on the kitchen light and poured myself a cup of milk and put it in the microwave. The even hum of the machine drowned out some of the quieter thoughts occupying my mind. It had a lulling effect that I just stood and basked in as the appliance did its job. I waited patiently as it did its cycle until the ping sounded.
That's when I heard it-a hollow crash coming from our back yard. I turned around and peered through the wood and glass kitchen door and into the pitch dark, but all I could see was the pool in the sea of blackness. Someone had left the pool light on. I was still jumpy from the dream I'd had, and for all I knew it could be one of the neighbourhood dogs knocking over a trashcan again. That happened all too often.
I walked to turn the switch off when I heard the same sound again, but this time it was louder and closer. I knew I wasn't imagining it and that the noise was certainly not a trashcan. I stood rigid and rooted in place waiting, listening, willing the universe to tell me this was all for nothing. That these were all symptoms of my dream induced paranoia.
The microwave pinged again and startled me, reminding me that its job was done but that quest had been long forgotten. I walked down to the furthest end of the room and was about to open the door when a black figure entered from behind me. It was carefully silent; I could have missed it had I not been as sensitive to sound as I was at the moment.
"Jet, don't sneak up on me," I said facing the large black Labrador in relief and patted its head. I sighed, figuring he must have been the source of the noise. Okay, I seriously needed to chill out or I was going to jump out of my skin. I chuckled at my own edginess, I was hardly the nervous type.
The mutt was a welcomed intruder; I was beginning to feel like the anxiety was symbolic of something else that was about to happen. A testament of how overly sensitive I was being. Paranoia didn't suit me.
I knelt down on one knee to show some affection to the dog only to be flat out ignored by him.
"Hey boy, what's the matter?" I cooed rubbing behind his ears. His hackles up and looking straight past me into the night. I knew what that meant. I wasn't imagining it.
Someone was here.
Jet was a lot of things to this family. He was the beloved household pet, Mathew's best friend and a guard dog. Not in the sentimental type of `aw he'd do anything to protect his family' kind of way that most dogs were renown for. No, he was much more than that. I had personally trained him.
I noticed early on that he had a natural talent for picking up tricks really quick and a need to please. He showed a great aptitude for protection. So it clicked in my head then that I could use that to my benefit. He was ideally innocent and docile for Matt, but instantly turned dutiful and deadly on my command.
I constantly worried about my family's safety, particularly when I was away on missions. Dangers ranging from the common house burglar, to the more heinous and skilful mercenaries out there. I wanted, if possible, to give them the best chances of survival. That included a sophisticated security system I had installed over that- that dad had paid for and training the dog to be ruthless to intruders and give off sufficient warning. He had a big bark on him.
But now, the way he was looking outside was resolute. Not mere curiosity but indicative that the dark hid something. I was so ready for this, ready to direct all my pent up energy to something with a cause. Here, I was in my zone, I was in control. This was my stomping ground, my territory.
"Come boy," I said before clicking my tongue to which he responded immediately. No one else in the family got to see this side to Jet and I sincerely hoped they would never have to.
He followed me quietly past the darkened living room and into the circular sun room where a large black grand piano was the centerpiece of the room. The small room housed a white-washed display shelf that had some family pictures and souvenirs we collected over the years from family vacations, and white cushioned window- seats that formed a crescent with the large windows that surrounded most of the room. The last piece of furniture in the room was a narrow day bed closest to the door.
The room held a nice air of calm and relaxation. It was mom's favorite room in the house, and she used it often. But tonight it didn't possess any of the usual comfort. I entered the room and made a beeline to the grand piano. I pushed it a couple feet away from its normal resting position and kicked away the thick grey rug with my bare feet. The floor board of the room was made of wooden planks. I kneeled down and began tapping lightly on the hard surface. Nice thing about wood was that it was light and made a hollow sound when I found what I was after. I placed both my palms on strategic pressure points and pushed against the floor, releasing it with a low pop a hatch door opened and a large silver briefcase lay inside.
I opened the titanium protective case, and pulled out a large gun. It was a short rifle, also called a carbine. I went about assembling the eighteen inch firearm in a rapid, practiced fashion. I did a quick check of the magazine for bullets, and then thumbed the silencer from the case. I twisted the accessory onto the end of the barrel and cocked the gun. I released the safety as I got up with clear intent, somebody chose the wrong suburban house for a late night visit.
Throughout all of this, Jet stood dutifully behind me, waiting on his next orders and watching my back like he understood the seriousness of what I was doing. I replaced the case and closed the trap before kicking back the rug.
This was one of the many hideouts I had all over the house. I chose the Steyr AUG carbine for its enhanced aim and superior power over a handgun, more importantly, it would go right through a bullet proof vest. I wasn't taking any chances tonight- not when my family was on the line. I held the gun up against my shoulder and looked through the optical scope. The nifty accessory guaranteed increased accuracy. It was a very proficient weapon for a seasoned marksman.
In the unlikely occurrence that our house got swept clean by federal officers, several hundreds of thousands in firearms and ammunition would be found in this residential home alone. Way beyond the legal limit for any civilian and non-governmental unit. Most of the accessories and bullets I owned weren't even legal to enter the United States. Banned from use by many countries in the western world. I had enough fire power to fully arm a small SWAT team.
I padded quickly across the cold floor barefoot. The only sound was my breathing and the dog's paws.
"Which way, boy," I whispered. He cocked his ears up in understanding and took the lead to the back door. I deactivated the alarm system before stepping out into the cool night air. I followed Jet slowly and deliberately, watching out for any sudden movement, both hands securely gripped the heavy weapon.
The back porch had simple outdoor furniture. Where we hung out in warm weather and during cookouts with a large brick grill out for the winter months too. It was a great place to entertain friends with its picturesque view ahead. Dad had worked painstakingly hard with the landscape to make it look the way it did. Almost fooling you into believing you were out of the city.
I looked in the direction Jet had his nose pointing. That's the same place I had heard the disturbance when I was in the kitchen earlier. I pulled up the gun and secured my grasp.
"Stay," I commanded to a very reluctant looking dog. He didn't want me to go on my own.
I quickly and quietly walked over to where the bushes were thickest at the edge of our property. The hedges rustled in front of me and my finger instinctively rested a bit more weight on the trigger. I held my breath, my right eye trained with eagle like vision through the optic lens. I wouldn't miss even a micro fiber.
Then, all the rustling leaves died down along with the breeze that had caused them to move. It was just the wind. I sighed-false alarm. I turned my attention elsewhere; I stepped closer to the end of the wooden porch when barking erupted frantically and violently.
I jolted from the sudden noise and turned back to see that Jet was standing straight up, no longer heeling, but the bark hadn't come from him. I was highly annoyed knowing I almost discharged. It was the neighbor's dogs causing the commotion. Whoever it was must be near the fence.
Jet started getting restless and broke code. He whined and started pulling the hem of my shirt.
"Jet, what are you doing?!" I said getting aggravated with the dog. This wasn't protocol. I trained him better than to act like this.
"Shh dude, you're gonna wake my parents."
"You're the one that pissed off the neighbor's dogs," A second voice responded.
I had just enough time to pull the cold weapon behind my back before Justin and Chuck rolled out of the bushes, clearly drunk as all hell.
"Hunter! My hero," my older brother slurred before chuckling at some joke I had clearly missed.
"You heard us knocking on your window?" he asked wrapping his arm around my neck and assaulting my nose with the smell of smoke and booze.
"My room is upstairs, genius," I said tightly.
"Shit, dude, whose room did you knock on then?" asked the tall black haired boy before keeling over in fits of laughter.
It clicked then that this was the sound I'd heard first. He was probably knocking on the guest bedroom's window. That used to be where my old room was before they finished renovations upstairs. That was done almost ten years ago though.
I wasn't in the least bit amused by their drunken antics, and then there was the not-so little problem of the large, loaded gun behind my back. Jet started yipping and begging for Justin's attention. Thankfully, that worked because he let go of me and soon both idiots started rolling around on the floor with the easily excitable dog.
I don't know if it was on purpose, which I seriously doubt, but Jet gave me my opening. I pulled up one of the seat cushions and stuffed the firearm underneath. It looked very bulky; in fact it was poorly concealed, but hell if they'd notice.
"Why didn't you just use your key?" I asked now that I had nothing to hide.
Justin grinned at me stupidly with red, glassy eyes, "Uh, I may have left them in my car. I didn't drive home. Too wasted."
Chuck laughed at that, "Dude, we are so drunk." As if this fact was ever in dispute.
"You're lucky you didn't wake up mom. She would've killed you. Just get in." I said, realizing there was no point in lecturing a pair of drunken fools.
Justin got up first and stumbled his way into the house. Chuck followed suit and only then did he notice my choice in attire, or lack thereof.
He bit his bottom lip and lewdly roved my body with his bloodshot eyes as if taking a mental snapshot.
"Say something stupid and you'll be sleeping outside," I threatened.
"You're such a harsh mistress, my love," he said giggling at his own lame joke.
I bit my tongue as he swayed past and completely missed when he tried to smack my ass.
"Crap," he mumbled as he stumbled from the previously failed action and walked inside.
I took a deep breath in and eyed the four legged creature staring up at me and lazily wagging its tail.
"Good job, boy." I said running my hand down his silky back. He had caught the familiar scents and stopped me from opening fire on my own brother.
Only then did I allow the full weight of the situation to sink in. I nearly shot my brother. I dropped down on the large outdoor seat and glanced at the dark night sky. Not a star in sight. Just black never ending sky.
I felt a slow, thick cloud of exhaustion really drag me in. The shaking returned with a vengeance. My nerves felt raw. I brought my hands up to my face and noticed they'd become clammy in the last ten seconds.
I sat through another dull Q and A in English class. I think it's because I slightly intimidated my English teacher. She never spent more than a few seconds of direct eye contact with me in any of our previous lectures, let alone asked me a question. That suited me just fine. I wasn't one for public speaking anyway.
However, today's class kind of had a lasting impression on me. I wasn't one for artistic interpretation but the plot of The Crucible was sort of ironic to me, but moreover, it was the first time I felt a strange form of familiarity with a fictional character.
The story of how a young, seemingly non-threatening girl, threw an entire town into mortal turmoil though cunning exploitation of their beliefs-patriarchy and misogyny leading the pack. I guess that was understandable for the time,1953.
See, parallels could easily be drawn between the story of Abigail Williams, and my own life. The American government was over-confident, they had a false sense of security that they had all but incinerated with the last memory of the KGB. Yet, guised as an ordinary teenager here I was, right under their noses, unnoticed.
There was a constant power struggle in the historical town of Salem, its leaders marred knee deep in hypocrisy and questionable intentions much like the modern era and political agendas. But I wasn't here to argue foreign policy and the station of troops and agents abroad-that was for my superiors to worry about.
I wondered if this was mandatory reading material in the old country, back in Moscow. I felt the aesthetic similarities too great to miss. What really resonated with me at the end of class was that power, real power, laid in the most unlikely places or people-like maybe a quiet teen in high school.
I abruptly stopped doodling on my note pad when I got that unnerving feeling that I was being watched. I was pretending to take interest like everyone else in the class and studiously note taking. But that was a farce, much like my life.
I turned to see Mason's chocolate eyes studying me like I was the current curriculum. I knew why he was looking my way, although I'd done my best to pretend I was fine. The memory of the dream I had Saturday night would creep up. The thing is, it wasn't so much as the dream itself but what it represented. I had a graveyard packed with repressed memories far worse than that, I just couldn't help but feel like my barriers were being cracked by my subconscious and I was losing control. That freaked me out more than anything.
It didn't help matters remembering that I'd almost put a bullet through my brother as a result of the resurrection of my unfortunate history.
I'd let myself get carried away again, only brought back by his all- too familiar voice. Like the beat of my heart, I was so in tune with his timbre.
"Yeah of course."
"You seem distracted."
"And you seem preoccupied with me," I countered defensively. I knew this was mere stalling, but that wouldn't get Mason of my back. He had the ability to see right through me and at times like this it was a real pain.
The bell rang finally bringing this particular class to an end. I packed up relatively quickly, trying to avoid any unnecessary talk . That plan didn't get me too far since he knew exactly where my locker was located. In hindsight, I should have made better with my getaway.
"What's going on with you?" he asked with a perplexed look on his face. I didn't like lying to him, so I really preferred it if he didn't ask me questions, more specifically, ones that would require me to lie in response.
"Nothing," I said looking him in the eye and doing my best to believe it myself.
He wasn't buying it though, and the furrowed brow was a giveaway. "You seem a bit out of it."
I could lie to the best of them, easily, but knowing that his questioning came from a place of concern made it harder for me. It always felt like a direct betrayal, although, most of the time it was in his best interest not knowing what kind of secrets his best friend was harboring.
"Me? No, I'm great. Just peachy"
"Peachy?" he laughed at my unusual use of colloquialism.
I broke eye-contact with him just long enough to observe the lingering stares from other students passing by. I still wasn't used to this, my new found notoriety since the fight and my link to the big guy on campus meant that people noticed me now. Worse yet, some of them even talked to me.
But that was only a part of my intrigue; the other acting like gasoline to the social flame was the party I was supposedly hosting this weekend. It had taken on a life of its own and become such a headache that I made it abundantly clear to Mason that I wanted no part in its planning. None what-so-ever.
He knew to only include me in dire circumstances, besides he didn't need me, my social prowess was equivalent to a Raccoon's and I was perfectly content with that. Between him, my popular older brother and my teammate Nate, I wouldn't be missed.
And then it came to me. My way out of his scrutiny.
"Yup, actually, Nate called me last night. He wants to know if you would mind meeting him sometime before Friday. Ya know, get to know each other before the big day."
"Yeah, that'd be cool."
I smiled at that. Talk of this Saturday's party seemed to be my savior. The school seemed to have a constant charge running through it ever since Justin broke news of the party. For a second I did wonder was competing my new skills at the next meet so important that I would put up with the ugly consequences of this weekend. I wasn't stupid- I knew this would come at a price.
"He's been dying to meet you anyway"
"Yeah?" he asked completely absorbed in the new topic. He made this too easy for me sometimes.
"Probably wants to suss out the sanity of someone who willingly spends so much time with me."
"You're not that bad," he paused to think that over, "most of the time"
At that point the rest of the gang arrived all confirming my thoughts that this weekend was all everyone could talk about.
"How are the preparations going? Need any help?" Damon asked leaning against the locker next to mine. I turned and looked at Mason making it clear where to direct any further questions.
"Great, Justin already knows a guy who can get a great deal on the kegs with no threat of getting carded."
I winced slightly at hearing that, but after further consideration noted that I didn't want to get any more involved in this. I know my imagination could get the better of me sometimes but the vivid image of high school girls dancing topless on my mother's furniture did run through my mind.
And then instantly, the second more likely occurrence. Ziggy getting wasted. He acted horribly anywhere near alcohol. An abundant supply would be like gifting him with an extended stay in the ER.
Again Mason knew exactly what I was thinking, "Don't worry. I'm watching him, he won't go over-board."
"Watching who?" Damon said not following.
"Where's Zig?" asked Mason mirroring my thoughts out loud.
"The short creep ran off after class saying something about someone beating his online score," was Damon's snarky answer.
"Don't call him that," Jen admonished in a motherly tone that only got Damon rolling his eyes. I knew he didn't mean it maliciously, he wouldn't admit it but he had a soft spot for the basket case of nerves that was Ziggy. We all did. So like every other time we went out, we were going to set up a Ziggy-watch schedule. Like a nanny system, pseudo-parental supervision. Who had first hour shift? Unfortunately, it was anybody's guess.
I sat quietly in the car as dad talked enthusiastically about the Patriots prospects in the upcoming season. I never really took part in most conversations but dad was one of the few I really like talking to, more than that I just like hearing his voice. It was always a source of calm and security and after the weekend I had, I was more eager to indulge my inner child, lose myself to a fantasy where he really could protect me from the world.
He'd just picked me up from practice, it was a little after seven so our peaceful neighborhood was now lined by bright yellow streetlamps illuminating perfect green, luminescent lawns and various garden fixtures. For the first time this week I felt perfectly at ease, serene even. I was mindlessly staring out the window with no coherent or pointed thoughts plaguing my mind for a change. The constant hum of the car coupled with my dad's timbre lulled my overly active brain.
We reached our driveway and before dad made the turn into our yard, I spotted a dark figure just across the road, partially hidden by the shadows of the trees and conveniently under the single non-working light in the entire street.
My agency didn't work with much of any personal interaction outside of missions. My residential address and cover, like most agents, were highly classified information, and it was unlikely that this was another spy. Unlikely, but not all together impossible. I was very particular about my family's safety, so I had to check it out. If I was over-reacting, then I'd just be getting to know a neighbor. But since I was with dad, I had to do this discreetly.
As this played in my mind, dad had unfastened his seatbelt and opened his door. I could have stopped him- stalled. But by the looks of things, this person was either not very good at staking out or wasn't even trying to hide at all.
I walked up to the front of the car to cut-off my dad as he made his way to the front door.
"I think I left my phone in the car," I said to him.
"Oh okay, I'll wait," he said coming to a standstill. The sooner I could get to the bottom of the mystery street urchin-the sooner I could kill this rapidly growing anxiety I was now feeling. That could only happen if dad made himself scarce.
"No, don't. I don't know where it is exactly. This could take a while. Just give me the keys."
"Alright, hand me your gym bag I'll take that in with me," he said gesturing with his hand.
"Thanks dad," I replied, handing him my gym bag and grabbing the car keys. I don't know, I'm probably weird but it was small gestures like offering to carry my bag in the house that got to me about my dad. He selflessly gave and never requested I do anything to match or remotely reciprocate his actions. The bag was no bother for a teen who could easily lift his own body weight and then some. I did that every day in gymnastics. But that's just who he was and I loved him for it.
I watched as he walked away, climbed the porch steps and closed the front door behind him. Convinced he was far enough; I turned on my heels and stalked across the otherwise vacant street to the mysterious figure. Unknown to me if it was friendly, and regardless that it was near my family, I needed to establish the difference. I hoped it wouldn't come to that since I was tired and my body ached after an intense four hour workout. What I needed most was a warm bath with mom's special oils and good night's rest. Not a bitter fight to the end.
I crossed the gap between myself and the voyeur when I caught an unmistakable silver glint. Although that particular streetlight may not have been on, it didn't prevent the light from the surrounding ones from reflecting on the metallic surface. It was a big, sleek, powerful motorbike. And the closer I got, the more I could make out the distinctly male figure leaning against it. A slow smile crept on my face at the realization. It could have been out of relief that I wouldn't have to be up against a threat in my exhausted state or- I was genuinely happy to see him.
I breathed out in relief, "Ryan is that you?"
I saw the matching grin that marked his handsome, angular face. He got up and crept out of the shadows, revealing his lean, taut body to me in dark jeans.
"You sound disappointed. Expecting anybody else?" he said in his musical voice.
"No...relieved," I answered.
"Yeah? You wanted to talk to me too?"
What? I hadn't thought out how my words would come out. Yeah, I was relieved it was him because facing some hired gun would have killed my evening. And my body was stiff from the workout I had just agonized through. But small talk with a hot guy never entered my mind.
"My dad could've seen you."
"Yeah I didn't think this one through; I just remembered that Tori had told me what time you usually get home...I couldn't find you elsewhere so...," he said before a long pause followed.
He looked at me expectantly like it was my turn to speak. In all honestly I didn't know what was expected of me. I knew I liked him, that was as far as I'd gotten with this, but now standing there in front of him I began feeling nervous like I could ruin whatever fantasy he had of me. `Cause up until this point I was convinced that's all it was-a fantasy. But truth was, I wasn't funny, I wasn't charming, what could possibly keep him coming back?
He saw I wasn't about to speak so he took it upon himself to give this unexpected rendezvous a direction. I know this because he studied my face for a while before taking a deep breath.
I felt my anxiety increase as I ran through the album of all the things he could possibly say.
"I just can't get a handle on what's going on between us. It's like one minute, when we're together, we're great, and the next you're avoiding me like the plague. I mean, it's not that there isn't any chemistry between us or that you're not interested in me," he took a small pause to gauge my face at that point. I don't know what he saw then because at the moment I was taken off guard again by him. I never knew what he was about to say, but this was the first time I had witnessed any sign of insecurity or doubt on Ryan's face since I've known him.
"You are interested...in me, right? `Cuz Friday night I felt more sure than ever that we have a connection, and if you're not sure about me, I want to make it clear that I'm into you. That I like yo-" he stopped talking just then.
Because I kissed him.
I had gotten this uncontrollable, wild NEED to kiss him. It came out of nowhere but was as strong as a hurricane.
"What was that for?" he asked as we pulled apart and gave his signature crooked grin.
"You wouldn't stop talking." And it was as simple as that. I felt I could and that he wanted me to.
"You can shut me up like that anytime you want." He replied as he snaked his hands around the small of my back and dipped his head down to meet my lips again.
And it was stillness, like a gentle breeze. A warm summer's rain. He was bliss, he was pure pleasure, he made my heart race. My lips, tongue and hands moved in tune with his. It was rhythmic, it was natural and in those few moment I forgot about everything going on in my head. The dark cloud that had been hovering over me was an inadmissible, negligible speck to Ryan's flame.
I felt kind of silly when we finally came up for air. We were in the middle of the road, where anyone could easily see us if they tried. I dipped my head down trying to break the electric currents he was sending with his eyes.
"I have to head back in or someone's gonna come out looking."
"Yeah, I should get home," he said looking at me like I was a gem. Like my company brought more to him than what I could see. I didn't understand it but neither did I have to. I just like it and I wasn't going to over think it. Take it at face value for a change. Just go with the flow and be spontaneous.
I pulled away just enough so I could feel the cool night air hit my face and cool my flamed skin. Not wanting the conversation to end just yet, because for some strange reason, I liked the sound of his voice.
"Ya know, we're sort of having a party here Saturday."
"If you're not doing anything, I don't know, maybe you could come over for a while?" I asked feeling awkward while saying it.
"Is this an official invitation?" he teased.
"Call it whatever you like."
"Fine. A date it is," he said with a throaty chuckle like he'd bested me somehow.
"You're silly. Just be there," I said before turning towards the house.
"So it is a date right?" he called out at me.
I turned around and smiled at him," No!"
Once safely behind closed doors and hearing the revving of the bike, I felt a swell of excitement rise in my chest. I was actually looking forward to this weekend and whatever it may bring, as long as he was part of the package, I'd be just fine.