“Can I come? I can help tell the story,” Regina said. I was already out of the car in the parking lot of Phelps Grove park when the question was being asked. She looked at me from the driver’s seat, trying to figure a way to make me let her come. That was not going to happen. “What if you don’t remember it all? We talked about a lot last night.”
“I’ll be fine,” I said.
“When do you want me to pick you up?” she asked.
“She will take me home. She can give me a ride,” I said.
“I love you,” she whined.
I hated the sound of the words. They were tinged with a clawing desperation. I believed she was right. I believed she did love me, but things were far too complicated now. Far too complicated. Shadow and Guardian had come forward the night before, a living testament to the abuse I had suffered, shades within my mind of the tools I had needed to survive. After an entire night of talking to Job and Regina, I needed to make sense of it all. I needed Bekah.
When I saw her from a distance, walking toward me to the bench I sat on, fear kicked up in me. I was about to set fire to her understanding of me, about to change how she saw me in every way.
I rose and hugged her. “I’m terrified,” I said.
Bekah’s face changed and she grabbed me tight. “Why? What happened?”
“You’re gonna run, so far and so fast, when I tell you this,” I said. I was close to crying now, and she grinned at me and shook her head.
“The only way I would ever leave you is if you wanted me to.” She wrinkled her nose and shook her head. “Not even then.”
“You’re gonna need to sit down,” I said. She sat. I told her then about my conversation with Regina. I told her about the color blue. I told her about the cookies, and I told her it had all been said with the voice of a child.
I told her that when Regina had asked me how old I was, the child had been jerked away and out had sprung the vile, terrifying man who called himself Shadow. I told her my mind was shattered, and she closed her eyes and looked at her lap.
Bekah was quiet. She looked up at me and shook her head. “How did we not see that?” she asked in awe. “How could all of us not see?”
“Well, we didn’t know to—”
“No, Jesse, listen. How did everyone you have ever met not know that you have multiple personalities? Everyone?” She shook her head and looked into the sky. “I’m an idiot. It is all there. Of course you do. It is the only thing that makes any sense.”
“You’re not scared?” I said.
“Not at all. I’m disappointed with myself, and every friend we ever knew, but not scared. We can work with this. We can get past this.” She took my hands in hers, and she curled her fingers around mine. Her hands were so gentle, so right. The long elegant fingers were perfect, and she let me look at her hands before squeezing them softly. I looked up at her.
“I am your friend, Jesse. Nothing more, nothing less. I am going to see this through with you. I am going to be here through all of it,” she said.
I broke. Every fear, every word of horror that had played out the night before, all of it, the confusion, the darkness, was inconsequential. She was with me.
“Friend?” I said.
“That is all you need right now. You need a friend. You need family.”
And she was right. A wedge, enormous and impregnable, had been driven straight through the center of my family. I had gone against them, had worked counter to them, and I had broken rules. I was not of that life anymore. I was cut away, never going back. A man without a family, without hope.
Every friend I had was gone. D still lived in Springfield, but I could never get hold of him. I had friends from college, but all others had been scattered and blown away. I was a man alone. The people in my life now had known me for months, not years. I had walked away from my family for a code, for the sake of honor. I had nothing left. I was forsaken by my entire past.
Except for her.
Every conversation I had with her, since we had first gotten together, had been about us in some way. Through all the breakups and the heartache, we had stayed friends, but the topic had never been far. Her eyes asked the question every time I saw them. Her actions were an orchestra of movement and light that all said the same thing.
Why aren’t we together? Bekah had been asking that question of me for so long. In everything we did together, she had been saying, We are perfect for each other. We are meant to be. Why are we not together? You belong to me, she said. I belong to you.
She had, for years, been trying to figure it out. But now, in her face I saw she had the answer.
“You could never be happy with me—with anyone. You were destined to walk alone,” she said. “How could a body divided ever find happiness in one woman?” She wiped tears from her eyes and she smiled. “They weren’t all in love with me. How could they be? They’re likely so different.”
She turned away and nodded. “There are some that love me. I see them all the time. I see it in the way they look at me and smile. I had seen love on your face for me for years now. But not all the time. They don’t all love me.”
She smiled at me. “Let me help you,” she said. “I want nothing from you but friendship. We have a lot of road ahead of us. Let’s walk it as friends. I have so much time now that I am out of college. I can make my own hours at work. My life is wide open. If you need me at any time, you call. I will always be there. I am your friend now. That is what you need. That is what I can be.”
I wept. She held me.
In her car, an hour later, she smiled and said. “I want you to listen for a minute, OK?”
“You have a kid in there. I don’t know his name, but he is funny and cute, and he is playful. He is a lot of fun. I have seen him many times. He knows me.”
“We have been calling him the Child,” I said. “He is an off-limits topic with Shadow. Shadow gets dangerous when the Child is mentioned. He scares me. I don’t know what he will do.”
Bekah grabbed my hand. “Don’t be afraid of Shadow.”
“You don’t know—you have never met him,” I said.
“Oh yes I have. I was his lover. I know him well. But I am not afraid of him. Do you know why?”
“Why?” I was close to crying. Man, I was so close to crying all the time back then.
“Because of the story you told me about Guardian. When Shadow was going to hurt Regina, Guardian came to save her. He has been keeping people safe from Shadow all of your life. I will not doubt him now. Trust him, Jesse. I do.”
“How can you? You don’t know him,” I asked her.
“Oh Jesse, I know him well. I can hear him talking now. I have been with him so many times. He is an old friend,” she said. “Now there is one in there that will not talk. He comes out when you get upset about something that happened in your past. He weeps and he holds on tight and he will only say ‘Shh.’”
“I have not seen him,” I said. “He did not come out last night.”
“He is in there. Trust me. I have held him while he cried.”
“We will call him Shush for now,” I said.
“You have one that will give you anything you ask for,” she said.
“Anything I ask for?”
“No, anything that is asked of him. He is everyone’s servant. He will give you anything you desire and more. He is used to being talked down to, and he apologizes all the time. He wants nothing and expects nothing. He is generous to a fault—dangerously so. He has been taken advantage of.” She left it there, not saying anything else about it.
“We will call him Servant for now. We have not seen him yet.”
“You have one more that I can think of right now.” She shuddered, though I don’t think it was fear that did it. It was some dark emotion, but not fear, a secret hurt that she had never talked about. “He has no tone. He speaks in a monotone voice, and he doesn’t care.”
“What do you mean?” I twitched violently. The world came to sudden, vivid color and I glared at her. Another had woken, and he was angry.
“He can say the most terrible things without any emotion. He can remember everything that has ever happened, and he does not care who he hurts with his words. He will say anything.”
“Did he hurt you?” Guardian asked.
She turned off the road and shut off the engine. She opened her door and walked around the car to my door. She opened it and gently pulled me out of the car. She took my head carefully in her hands and looked me in the eye.
“I know you now,” she said. “I can hear your voice and I know who you are. I can feel your life, and I know you, Guardian. I am so sorry that I didn’t see you before. I’m so sorry I let you live alone this way.”
“I am never alone.”
She hugged him. “I know that now. I am your friend. I am your family.”
He held her and petted her head. “And I am yours.”