Shyla and Henry left the meeting in the early hours of Sunday morning. They made their way to the CBD, and climbed a tall apartment building right on the southern edge of the high rise sector. They stopped on the flat roof, and Shyla sat down, her back against the low wall. Henry sat next to her and she snuggled into his shoulder, his arm coming around her waist. They sat like this, Shyla staring at the moon, Henry staring at her. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” Shyla murmured, not looking at him.
“Yes, you are.” He replied, smiling down at her covered profile.
Shyla was grateful for her mask, because she began to blush furiously. Henry had a feeling she was blushing, because he pulled her mask up and pressed a light kiss to the heated skin of her cheek.
“Henry,” she mumbled, after he had pulled the mask back where it should be. “You know what happens to me when you call me that.”
“Am I not allowed to acknowledge the fact that you are beautiful?” he asked, slightly indignant.
“I’m still not comfortable with it.” Shyla looked down. Having to discuss this with Henry was making her deeply uncomfortable.
It was not that she was ungrateful for the compliment, nor did she dislike the attention. But instinct as old as life itself had her wanting to remain inconspicuous. Not being accepted by her peers had made her avoid doing anything that made her stand out. Any attention was still a new concept to anybody who had spent their entire life trying to blend into the wallpaper.
Henry pressed his lips gently against her covered forehead. “Shyla,” he said. “You shouldn’t have a problem with the word ‘beautiful’, because that’s what you are. Don’t let people like Shaun tell you otherwise, because they’re just wrong. They can’t see what I see, that you’re beautiful, inside and out. It doesn’t matter what those people think or say about us; you’re special and I love you.”
Shyla looked up at him, smiling. Henry pulled off his mask and Shyla did the same. He bent his head down and pressed his lips to hers. She twined her fingers into his hair and pulled him closer. He ran his fingers up her face and slid them into her hair. A scuffle and low voices on the street below caused them to pull apart and slide their masks back on. Shyla peered over the edge into a circle of light on the pavement. Henry joined her, and together they appraised the situation.
Henry could see a group of guys standing under the light, drinking heavily. The scent of cigarette smoke drifted up towards them, causing Shyla to gag. Damn, Henry thought. Shyla’s allergic. I completely forgot. Cigarette smoke made Shyla’s airways close up, making it difficult for her to breathe.
Shyla looked across at him, and dug around in her pocket. She pulled out an asthma pump, and used it twice. She looked up at him after sliding it back into her pocket and nodded.
A sudden commotion below caused the both to look sharply at the road. The men had spotted two young ladies walking towards them. They wolf-whistled and catcalled, making a big scene of the ladies passing by. “Should I give them a ninja escort?” asked Henry, smiling before pulling on his mask.
Shyla nodded, rolling her eyes. She watched from above as Henry landed softly onto a window ledge, then onto the street. The two ladies didn’t see him until they were in the light. The group of men laughed at him. “Who doesh thish guy think he is?” slurred one of the men, his words running into each other. “A ninja?” his friends laughed raucously.
Henry stood his ground as the inebriated individual pushed himself away from the lamp-post and stumbled toward him. Henry didn’t hear Shyla land on the street until one of the less intoxicated men spotted her. “There’s another one.” He called, stumbling towards her.
Henry cringed internally and waved the two women on their way. They hurried away, thanking him quietly. Henry knew Shyla could look after herself, but it didn’t make him any less comfortable to not protect her.
The extremely drunk man tripped over his own feet and fell into Henry’s arms. Henry laid him gently down on his side on the sidewalk and turned to Shyla. Shyla stepped into the light. “It’s a girl.” One of the men exclaimed, seemingly surprised.
Henry could see the indignation in Shyla’s eyes, and stepped in front of her. The men all dropped their booze and cigarette butts, attempting to threaten Henry and Shyla. Both stood their ground, Henry secretly terrified for Shyla’s safety. One of the men tried to hit Henry, but he ducked. Shyla caught his fist and pulled him to the floor. Henry straightened up and side-stepped one man charging at him. Blue lights came to life at the end of the street. A cop car eased into view.
Henry slipped into the shadows, Shyla close on his heels. The cops didn’t see them disappear into the night. Several blocks away, somewhere in the middle of downtown Rutherford, Shyla, who was jogging up ahead, stopped running and stood still. Henry slowed to a walk and stood behind her. “Dark Ninja,” she said, clear as a bell. “Please stop following me.”
Henry was confused, but he had the feeling Shyla’s sensitive ears had picked up a faint noise. “Ginger Ninja,” he replied, equally as clear. “I’m in love with you.”
A bright search light appeared from the top of a nearby building and swept down the length of the street. Shyla stepped into the shadow of a narrow doorway. Henry squeezed himself in with her as the light passed. “Shaun.” Whispered Shyla into Henry’s chest. “I heard his voice.”
The light came back; in its circle a small group of three people. “You see anything?” a voice called from somewhere above them. Shyla figured the guys had snuck onto the building in the hope that the ninjas would pass by that way.
“I distinctly heard them talking.” Shaun was getting frustrated. And Henry figured he knew why. Shaun was motivated by money after all. Bringing in either one of them would mean a huge payday for anybody.
“Well, they’re not here.” The replying voice – Henry assumed it was Harry – was getting frustrated. “Shaun, you need to understand this; you will not catch them. They are ninjas. They are faster, more agile, and they can whip your ass in any fight.”
“Why does Shaun want them anyway?” the guy standing to Harry’s left asked.
“Unsettled business.” Came the eerie reply from above. “And money.”