The Shadow

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“So, what are we doing here? Going to a park wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when you said we were going to do something fun after shooting practice today.” I stated, Caeli turned around and smile at me.

“I said we would do a fun training, I thought you listened to me now…” She replied, tucking her hands into her jacket pockets.

“Must have stopped listening after ‘fun’…” I trailed off. She scoffed a laugh while I smirked.

“That tracks.” She replied, stopping on the footpath in the middle of the park. There were plenty of people out. It was probably going to be one of the warmest days left until winter would kick in. They were making the most of the warmer weather while they could, even though Caeli was already in a jacket and I was too. “This place is perfect.” She stated after surveying the area and looking back to him.

“Can you tell me what we’re doing here if that’s the case?” I asked, and she nodded her head slowly.

“Something I have a feeling you’ll suck at… I’ll go first.” She told me, holding eye contact. The silver colour was still beautiful, and it continued to amaze me it could even exist in a person’s eyes. “Rules are fairly simple, don’t leave the perimeter of this section of the park, no hiding behind objects and try to do better than I will.” She told me, she smiled again, excited about whatever we were about to do.

“You haven’t really told me what we’re doing.” I pointed out.

“An elaborate crossover game of chasey and hide and seek. You need to catch me, if you can find me.” She told me. She shuffled her weight from side to side, something I had noticed that she regularly did as if she hated being still.

“But you said no hiding…” I trailed off. She faked a gasp.

“I did, didn’t it?” She looked around the park one more time before she met my eyes again. “The easiest way to run from an enemy is to walk, to blend with the crowd and disappear. That is what we will practise today. I am going first, so take notes and learn from the master.” I shook my head, it sounded impossible, I turned around to take in the park… there was no way I could keep myself hidden.

“How am I supposed to do that?” when I turned back, she was gone. She never lied or went against her word, so if she said that we couldn’t hide behind objects, then she was out in the open. I looked around the park for her hair, her face, her eyes… she would have to change her appearance to obscure herself and hide in plain sight. She would have to swipe clothing like a hat or a jacket. I walked around aimlessly, as I tried to find her. Her eyes would be one thing that I could see and immediately know it was her, but glasses would easily obscure them… I continued my aimless walk around the park, occasionally spotting a flash of her grey eyes but never long enough to catch her. At least, until I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“Either you suck at this, or I am bloody brilliant, I think we both know it’s the latter.” Caeli’s voice reached my ears as I turned around to face her, her hand gently on my shoulder until she took it away.

“I didn’t find you…” I trailed off, she smiled.

“Yes, but you took ten minutes of walking around aimlessly and we have little time, so now it’s your turn.” She told me, looking around the garden as she spoke. “Three tips, move with the flow of people, lift clothes to obscure your identity where you can and avoid eye contact naturally. I’ll give you ten seconds with my eyes closed, after that you’re fair game. Remember, no hiding behind things, be in the open, you just have to blend.”

She closed her eyes and began counting down; I went into a mix of panic and focus modes. I had to move with the people, facing away from Caeli so she couldn’t see my face and get a different jacket to hide my clothes. With five seconds left, I grabbed a puffer jacket that was lying on the back of a chair and put it on. Two seconds and I grabbed a beanie from a small clothing stand on the side of the footpath to keep my hair hidden.

I barely made it in time, but I felt comfortable enough to walk around, making sure I was moving or facing away from Caeli. When I was behind her, I could see how she had hidden from me so effortlessly. When we had come here, her hair had been in a ponytail, it always was, but to disappear she had taken it out. Her hair was long, and no longer blonde like when I had first met her. She had dyed it back to black in the months since then. The colour shone in the sunlight…

I turned away from her again as she moved.

I didn’t know why I felt like I had to prove her wrong, why I had to win whatever little competition this was. She thought I wouldn’t be able to do this, but I needed for her to be wrong about what I could do. About me. But there was something else that was driving me, I wanted to impress her. She had never shown interest in me, not much anyway, but some part of me wished that to change, and I couldn’t really tell if it was narcissism or if I genuinely felt something for her and wanted to have it returned. I didn’t really want to delve into it just yet, either. Not when Nylah and I weren’t sure if we wanted to keep working with Caeli and Sinclair.

Someone grabbed my shoulder, I turned to see who it was, but I should have known.

“Good effort,” Caeli stated. It made me almost proud of myself. She never gave compliments without due reasoning. “However, I’ve been on your tail for the last two minutes, and you hadn’t noticed you were being followed. I assume something distracted you, but your focus needs to be on the situation at hand. Remember, losing focus could mean losing your life in the wrong situation.”

“But you didn’t see me for like five minutes, right?” I asked, noting her evaluation and warning.

“Um, three and a half minutes actually, but that would normally be enough to get away from a low-level criminal. For someone like me, though, it’s really not good enough. So, we will give it another shot here and then we can move somewhere else and try again.” She stated with her hands in her pockets. She really didn’t like the cold…

“Why are you so good at all this?” I asked her. She still hadn’t told me about her past or how she knew all of this stuff, even though he knew pretty much everything about me. I had tried to research her history like she had done with me in the days after we met, but I couldn’t find anything.

“I have a reputation for a reason, Syrus.” She told me.

“And why haven’t you told me about your past yet?” I asked next, and she sighed before she looked around the park again. She was avoiding my eyes, trying to avoid the question.

“It’s a long and tangled story, one you might not believe if I told you.” She stated. I was about to say something to push her further about it, but she spoke first.

“Ten seconds, starting now.”

I couldn’t argue as she closed her eyes, I would push her later for her story.

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