Chapter 29: Surprise
THAT night, we left for the safehouse in Denver with Robert’s body in a makeshift coffin on the roof of the van. It was strange transporting a dead body, devoid of a life, of a spirit, of anything at all. Just cold and empty, like a small part of me felt.
The body stayed on the van throughout the night as we all slept in the safehouse. It stayed in the same spot the next morning as Joseph gave out our assignments. Even the assignments stayed the same. It was all the same, and yet nothing was the same.
Braden’s murder hadn’t affected me like this. Part of me assumed that it could’ve been a crime of passion, and we just hadn’t known that someone was in love with him. It wasn’t unheard of for someone with powers to snap without completely going mad.
Robert’s murder was different though. It signaled something much more sinister—a real, tangible threat to my family, my friends, my way of life…even to me and Ian. This was the first time I’d ever considered that the Hunters could actually take down Winter’s Edge.
Life wouldn’t be simple again until this murderer was removed. Then again, had it ever really been simple, or had I always just been a naïve little girl accustomed to my normal way of life?
Ian and I ran errands and dropped gold at the refinery, but we didn’t speak much.
He started to look a little worried. “Are you okay?” He put a hand on my leg as I drove the old Taurus.
It was warm, and his touch always gave me a little release from any stress that might have built up without me noticing.
“I just keep thinking about Robert. About our life in Winter’s Edge.” My eyes teared up. That wasn’t like me. I always thought optimistically, but something about this weighed on me. “I just can’t shake the sneaking suspicion that our life in Winter’s Edge is over.”
Ian grimaced, squeezing my leg. “Don’t worry. We’ll find whoever’s doing this. You heard Joseph—they have fingerprints. They’ll know who the murderer is tomorrow.”
“We hope,” I said.
“Yeah. We hope.”
When five o’clock rolled around, I suggested we head back to the warehouse.
“Actually, we have different plans.” Ian wore an intriguing smile I hadn’t seen before.
“No, we don’t. Joseph said 6 p.m. No exceptions.”
“I’ve cleared this with Joseph. We have plenty of time.”
I frowned. “And why is that?”
“You’ll just have to wait and see.” He reached out for the keys.
“Oh.” My heart warmed.
We climbed into the car and I handed over the keys.
He snatched them and started the car. “Just sit back and enjoy the ride.”
I cocked my head. “Whatever you say.”
After a few minutes on the road, Ian said, “Close your eyes.”
I frowned then closed my eyes. “Alright, I’ll play along.”
The car came to a stop a minute later and Ian opened his door.
“Can I open them yet?”
“No, and don’t even think of peeking.”
I kept my eyelids tightly sealed. “Alright.”
My door opened.
“Step out.” Ian took my hand, helping me out of the car. The sounds of chirping birds, traffic, and pedestrians filled the air. Ian put his hand on my back, guiding me. “Watch your step.”
A door opened, and we walked through. People chatted inside. Arcade sounds drifted in from the right.
“Okay, open your eyes,” he said.
I opened them and let out a gasp. It was the theater my dad used to take me to on my birthday.
Ian wore a big smile. “Happy birthday.”
My eyes got wide when I realized what was happening. “How did you—”
“I asked your mom,” he said. “She filled me in on a few details.”
My eyes teared up.
Ian started to look worried. “Your mother said this could easily blow up in my face, but I still had to try.”
It was all very sweet. Almost overwhelming.
“We can leave if you want,” he said.
“No, no. I don’t wanna leave.” I turned to Ian and kissed him. “This is a wonderful birthday gift. I haven’t been here in thirteen years.”
I hadn’t even realized it was my birthday. For years, I’d told everyone not to worry about it. They knew my dad had left the day after my birthday on an unexpected supply run, and that I didn’t want to be reminded of it. But things had changed since I’d been able to talk about my dad with Ian. And Joseph and my mom must have decided it was time for me to get past it. That made me smile.
“I had a feeling you’d like to come here again,” he said.
“What are we seeing?” I sounded like a giddy little school girl.
“That’s a surprise, too.”
I looked around for the movie posters of what was playing.
“Oh, no you don’t.” Ian took my hand. “You won’t find this movie poster around the lobby anywhere. You’ll have to wait till the movie starts.”
“How did you manage that?”
“I had a little help from your mom,” he said. “She slipped me a small piece of gold.”
I turned to Ian and grabbed his hands, staring up into his eyes. “You rented out one of their theaters?”
“Yes and no,” he said. “Let’s just say the manager changed one of the movies being shown, and sold tickets to it. So, we won’t be the only ones in the theater. Keeps the ambiance.” He pointed at the concession stand. “It starts in a few minutes. Better figure out what you want.”
After the concession stand, we found our reserved seats dead center of the theater. We snuggled up and ate popcorn while the previews played. The theater went silent after the last one.
The familiar blast of trumpets filled the air, and a starfield appeared with yellow words scrolling up the screen. Fans in the audience cheered. Immediately, I knew what we were seeing.
“Star Wars.” I hugged Ian. “I don’t believe it. How did you know?”
“You said nerfherder a while back, so I asked your mom about it. She said Star Wars was the last movie you and your dad saw on your fifth birthday.”
All I could do is look into his eyes and smile, getting teary-eyed again.
“I know what it’s like to miss doing things with your dad,” he said, a bit of sadness lacing his words.
“I can’t believe you managed to pull all of this off. And all for me.” I kissed him again. “What did I do to deserve you?”
“More like what did you do to get stuck with me.” He gave a self-deprecating laugh.
“I’m happy to be stuck with you any day.” I leaned back in my seat, breathing in the nostalgia. This day had turned from worry and sadness into something wholly unexpected—a beautiful surprise I’d never forget.