I ignore Lewis at breakfast the next morning, intentionally not eating the bread she stole from the Hemmings, as delicious and fresh as it looks. There’s also an assortment of chocolates and coffee that I’m sure she didn’t pay for either, but didn’t bother mentioning to me yesterday after my little outburst in the middle of the street. I learned yesterday that the two of us are completely different people.
She smiles at me sarcastically, a playful gleam in her eyes as she rips off a crunchy piece of bread, chewing slowly and savouring the moment. I kick her under the chair, to which she growls at me, but I feign confusion when Jim looks up at us.
He quirks an eyebrow, opening his mouth to speak, but quickly deciding against it with a brief shake of his head.
“How did your mission go yesterday?” he asks instead.
“Well, that depends Jim,” says Lewis mischievously, “how much did you enjoy your breakfast?”
“All this?” he asks, eyes widening.
“Alice here was an excellent distraction. Mizzus Hemmings took quite a liking to her, bought me some time. I managed to snatch far more than I could when I go alone. This food wouldn’t be here without Alice,” she says brightly, a challenging look in her eyes as she watches for my reaction.
Jim smiles broadly, patting me on the back in congratulation.
I clench my fists angrily, unable to believe she gives me any credit for such a terrible thing.
“Well, I’m glad you took up your post so quickly, Alice! I knew you would be an asset to us.”
“No, no,” I say coldly, “Lewis is the real asset.”
I smile cheekily at my play on words, and the angry flash in her stormy, brown eyes tells me she registered my message.
“Well, I’m glad to see the two of you make such a great pair,” exclaims Jim cheerily, “it’s been much harder on Lewis since she’s started doing the job on her own. She and Alex made quite the team.”
Jim’s eyes widen as soon as he realizes what he said, and he clamps his hand over his mouth, as if he can take it back. I watch Lewis’ eyes glaze over, and her lips purse into a thin line. Her face goes several shades lighter, as if she’s about to be sick.
“Excuse me,” says Lewis abruptly, sliding out of her wooden chair with a loud creak and leaving the room.
“Ah,” is all Jim can say. We remain quiet for a few moments, before he rises to clear the table. I realize that this is one of the only opportunities I have to find out what happened with Lewis, and take a gamble at using it.
“Who is--or, was--Alex?” I ask slowly, “why does she do that whenever someone mentions him?”
Jim shakes his head sadly, his green eyes tormented and cloudy like a turbulent sea.
“I should not have said his name so carelessly,” he mutters.
“But why?” I persist.
Jim’s eyes harden when they look at me. His jaws are clenched and his eyebrows furrowed in thought. His posture is rigid, and I know that the subject is a delicate one for him too.
“It is her story to tell to you when she is ready to do so,” he says flatly, “However, I believe that that wound is still too fresh to sprinkle salt over. Do not speak of him unless she does so to you.”
“Am I replacing him? Is that why you needed someone else to help you here?”
Jim gives me a warm smile. “My desire for your assistance has nothing to do with Alex no longer being a part of this team. You are here because we needed you, not because we lost him.”
My mind wanders to where Jarrah is, probably somewhere over the Atlantic by now, looking lovingly into the eyes of some stupid French girl instead of me.
He sees the hesitation in my eyes, and as if reading my mind pats my back sympathetically.
“You have a new life here. Be thankful for it. You get to help people in ways most others are too afraid to. In fact, I’ll be giving you a new mission with Lewis come this eve. Mayhap it will help relieve some of the tension between you two. That would make you happy, would it not?”
My mouth opens to say yes, but my mind begins to scream no. It bangs against the walls of my skull, desperate to escape and let the world know that I’m lying.
“Of course,” I say with a fake smile, “now, if you’ll excuse me. I need to use the privy.”
I run down the hallway and into my room, wiping back the tears that begin to fall freely down my cheek.
Am I happy?
My mind wanders back to the ship Jarrah is in. Is he thinking of me right now? Is he standing on the deck, staring up into the same sky that I am and wishing that he never left? Probably not.
Mayhap he never loved me, for if he did, why would he stray?
Where there was hollow longing before, now I feel anger. Who did he think he was, to lead me so far from home and then abandon me, worst of all when my best friend died only weeks before?
No, he never loved me.
It was lust, and he realized so the moment we were separated.
My mind screams no in protest, but I push the thought far away. It is easier to accept that I lost something poisonous to me rather than something that would have made me whole.
But Isaac loved me, that much I know. He died to protect me, and it is him that I miss heavily. For him does my deep sense of loneliness draw from, knowing he will never be able to get me out of harm’s way when I cannot do so myself. He will never look at me with his calculating stare, or flash me one of his rare smiles, or argue with anyone who would disagree with me though he knows I am in the wrong.
Life has taken many things from me--my parents, my brother, my lover, and my best friend. T’would be easier for it to just take me, but it seems to enjoy my suffering, slowly bleeding me to death instead of dealing a knock-out blow.
I physically shake off my own self-pity, rising from my bed. It will get me no where. I open the door and enter the hallway. A faint sob echoes off the walls, and my ears prick up to identify the sound. I rest my head against the door on my immediate left, and realize that this is the source. I knock on the door three times faintly, and when no one answers I slowly open the door.
My eyes widen when they fall upon Lewis, a crumpled mess on her bed. Her face is moist and covered in fresh tears, her hair a tangled and unkempt mess. Her eyes are red and bloated, a chestnut brown full of a frightening depth and intensity that I have never seen in her before. We stare at each other for a moment in silence, before I pull her in for a hug. I have seen Lewis angry, excited, determined, and happy--but never, ever has she been vulnerable. The sight shocks me and I feel my anger with her melt away. She relaxes against my body, and I know that the memory of Alex has been tormenting her in the way Isaac’s torments mine.
Perhaps the two of us are not so different, after all.
I simply embrace Lewis, allowing the tears to fall freely from her cheeks and waiting for her to compose herself. Following Jim’s instructions, I decide not to mention Alex to her until she informs me that she’s ready to talk about it. My eyes study the room curiously as I sit at the foot of her bed.
For someone who has lived in this safe house for almost eight years, Lew’s room is frighteningly impersonal. It is completely colourless. Her walls are a pasty white without a single painting on them to display her interests. The floor has been stripped clean of a carpet, leaving only the exposed broken down tile that was beneath it. Her dresser is neatly pushed into the back of the room beside her bed, and I take a moment to notice the knife sitting on top of it. She probably sleeps with it there, I think dangerously.
She wipes away her tears, a determined look on her face as she sits up.
“I’m sorry,” she says brokenly, “I don’t usually--I haven’t cried since...”
“It’s okay,” I say quietly, “do you want to talk about it?”
“I don’t know. He doesn’t get mentioned much anymore, I prefer keeping it that way.”
“Try and help me understand,” I say gently.
She laughs bitterly. “Remember, right after Isaac died, when you said to me that there was, and I quote, no way in hell I could possibly understand what you were going through, and to stop pretending I care?”
My face flushes red, and I nod.
“Well, Lissy, I beg to differ.”
She strides to where the shelf is beside her bed. Pulling out a key from her pocket, she unlocks the first drawer and retrieves a photograph.
“This is Alexander Sawyer.” Her voice chokes upon saying his full name, but I don’t comment on it. I flush with relief when I realize that he is still alive. She said is, and not was.
I study the picture in my hand with curiosity. He’s good-looking, I’m quick to note. His jawline is defined softly, not as sharply as Isaac’s was but enough to give him a distinctly handsome face. His chin is sharp and a soft, scraggly beard makes him look several years older than he probably is. There is no colour in the picture, but by the soft way they study you, I assume his eyes are a light blue. He has long eyelashes to accompany them. His dark hair falls down to his shoulders in messy curls. A few strands fall over his face, making him appear mysterious and elusive.
“What happened to you two?”
She sighs, taking the photograph back from me and holding it firmly in her hand, as if that will bring Alex back. She looks into his eyes, thumbing over them and smiling sadly.
“What didn’t happen?”