“What did you talk about in therapy today?” she asked.
She was a mistake. I should not have been with her. She should not have been with me. She did not deserve to be dragged through my horror. It would only lead to heartache for her. Almost at once, we knew we shouldn’t be together, but I was too wounded, and I think she was too stubborn, to do anything about it. We existed in a world of noncommitment: friends, but not just friends.
But today she would break into a truth that would give me hope and a life.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
With anyone else, this would have been fine. But she was not going to brush this off. She never did. She wanted to know what I had said when she was not there. She wanted to know what I had said to my therapist, and when I came home crooked and broken, she was the first to touch the wound and ask for details.
“If you tell me, I can help you,” she said.
I said nothing. That day in therapy had been hard. I had uncovered memories that left me cold and alone. She was not the one I wanted to warm me. Her prying was not working. It was time for her to up her game. She rolled over and looked away.
We were on a bed, fully clothed and talking. I had come here to cry. It was not my bed. It was not my room. I was living on Job’s couch, but he didn’t mind me retreating to this place, so here I was. She had followed me in.
When she rolled over, looking away, I felt a stab of pain. Neglect, whether it was from her or anyone today, would not be tolerable. Suddenly I didn’t want to be alone, and I almost begged her to roll back over.
I gasped. I twitched, and I started talking. I do not remember much of what I said. I remember feeling nothing about it at all. I remember feeling as though I was talking about baseball or something else I found boring. I spoke with a monotone voice that was not my own, and I told the entire story without feeling any of it. It was just a collection of facts. When I had spewed it all, I lay back down and stared at the ceiling.
She rolled back over and I grabbed her arm. I buried my face in her arm and cried for a while. She said some words. She comforted me. Then, when I was calmer, she started asking questions.
“What do you want to do tonight?” she asked. “We can do anything you want.”
“Nuttin,” I murmured in a childish voice.
“Nothing? Not even a movie or a game?”
“OK,” she said. “How about food? What do you want to eat for dinner? I‘m starting to get hungry.”
“We can’t eat what I want to eat. You won’t let me,” I pouted.
“What do you want to eat? I’ll make you anything.”
“Cookies,” I said.
“You want cookies? For dinner?”
“Yeah, it’s my favorite food.”
“I thought pizza was your favorite food?” she asked.
“No, silly, cookies,” I giggled.
“OK. Hey, did you like the fish I got you today?” she asked.
“Yeah, it’s very frilly.”
“Frilly? Yes, Betas are frilly, I guess.”
“It’s blue. That’s my favorite color,” I said.
“I thought black was your favorite color,” she said.
There was a tension building in the room. I felt something familiar pulling close, something dangerous. But I was not scared. I had felt this thing before. It kept me safe. It loved and protected me, even if it was evil in its own right. I felt it draw near, and I started to get scared for another reason. He only came when I was in trouble, when he was needed, when something was creeping up on me. I was suddenly scared of her. Maybe she was the danger.
“No,” I said. I pushed away from her.
“No what?” she said.
“I don’t wanna talk.”
“I thought black was your favorite color?” she said. “Where are you going? Don’t go.”
“No,” I said. “Blue.”
“How old are you?” she asked.
With a gasp and a twitch, it came in fast and hard. It was wrath and hate. It swooped down, and with one great heave, shoved her out of the bed. It was on its knees in the middle of the bed and it had its knife pulled. “Leave him the fuck alone, whore.”
She was up faster than a cat and sitting on the other side of the room. Her hands flew up in her face and she lowered her head. “OK, OK, I will leave you alone,” she said.
“Him. You will leave him alone. You are dealing with me now. If I want you to talk, if I want you to ask him questions, I will kick you.”
“Good,” she said. “I understand. So who are you?”
“I am the darkness.”
“What is your name?”
“You ask too many questions. You have a mouth for a purpose, and talking is not it,” he said.
She laughed. So did he.
“What do I call you?” she asked.
“You can call me Shadow,” he said. He jumped to his feet. “Do we have any beer?” he said. “Where is Job? Where are my cigarettes?”
She stood. “Take one of mine.” She still stayed back. He snatched it out of her hand and twirled it, popped it into his mouth, and she handed him a lighter.
He lit his smoke, stuffed her lighter in his pocket, and stretched. “I need a drink. I need a fuck. And I need to know where Bekah is,” he said.
“Why Bekah? I’m here. We can hang out. I have a few questions.”
He looked at her and smiled. “I bet you do.” He grabbed a beer and cracked it open.
“You alone in there?” she asked. “Just you and the kid?”
He swung his gaze to her and walked up on her. She backed away, and he grabbed her by the arm. His fingers flexed around her and within him rose a black hate charged with the desperate need to hurt something, a desperate need to crush and break.
“What did you say?” he sneered. “Did you mention someone you need never talk about again?” Death. It was death he wanted. He smelled danger for the one that was protected. He smelled discovery and he smelled fear. As he stepped forward, his vise grip on her arm, he carefully placed his cigarette in his mouth and casually reached for his knife.
A gasp, a tremble. A quick jerk of the head and her arm was released. Shadow was shoved away and something else came to the front. It stepped back, lowered its head and rubbed its hands together. When it looked up, there was something different in its eyes, something hard and disciplined, but kind and warm.
Her expression changed. She started taking in little details, subtle things that had shifted: the way the head moved on the shoulders, the way the eyes took in images, the posture, the hold of the mouth. She stepped back and nodded as it looked up to her.
“And what do I call you?” she asked.
“I am Guardian,” he said. “You are safe now.” His voice was a little bit deeper. When it poured out onto the air, it was a source of peace and made the hearer feel protected.
“Guardian, I am Regina.”
He nodded and held out his hand. “I know who you are,” he said. “It is nice to meet you.” He drew on his cigarette and smiled. “I need to make a call.” He looked at the wall where the phone hung.
She walked to the wall and grabbed the phone. She made as if to push buttons and smiled up at him. “Do you know the number? I will dial.”
“Thank you very much, ma’am, but I can dial.” He looked into the living room. “I will be with you in a moment.” He gently took the phone from her and smiled. She huffed, but said nothing. She left the kitchen, and he dialed the phone.
When it was picked up on the other end and the voice issued through, he felt at peace. He repeated back the sound of the voice in his mind. He let it play out again, and with joy he realized that when he spoke, he would hear it again. “Bekah,” he said.
“Hi, Jesse. Is everything OK?” Peace and love rolled from the phone and Guardian smiled.
“Yes, dear. Everything is fine, but complicated. I need a favor.”
“Can you come pick me up tomorrow afternoon? We need to talk,” he said. “Something has happened.”
“Should I come now?” she asked. He hated to hear the worry in her voice.
“No, dear, come tomorrow. I need to figure out some more tonight. I am OK. I am going to be OK. We have a chance now,” he said. “I will see you tomorrow.”
“OK. Tomorrow then.”
“Bye,” he said. He listened to her say goodbye and held on to it as long as he could. He turned back to the living room and the girl pacing within.
“What do you know?” he asked.
“Not enough,” she said.
“We will figure it out together,” he said. They talked all night, as more and more shades came out of the darkness to greet her.
This was hope for the first time ever. This was a breakthrough. This gave me a chance. This gave us a chance.