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Just One Tear

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Chapter 3

"It doesn't look eerie. Well, save for its being abandoned. And it being night time," Raphael remarked as they stared at the front door of the house.

"I don't find ghosts to be frightening. Simply tragic," Isaac responded, turning his key in the lock and walking in. "I was unable to get the electricity and the water turned on ahead of time. I will need to handle that in the morning," he explained as they walked through the kitchen. "This first room is the guest room. You can sleep here. They shouldn't bother you tonight."

"Dude, I don't wanna upset your grandparents," Raphael replied. "You sure they're okay with me being here?"

Isaac ignored the playful grin that threatened to expose itself on Raphael's face. Having his story being played along with was better than being interrogated. "Just because they're driven close to madness by their unfinished business doesn't mean that they've become rude. The worst I you should expect is them trying to tuck you in."

"Alright, dude." The amusement Raphael felt towards Isaac's remark filled his voice. "Are you sure "Just because they're driven close to madness by their unfinished business doesn't mean that they've become rude. The worst I you should expect is them trying to tuck you in."

"Alright, dude." The amusement Raphael felt towards Isaac's remark filled his voice. "Are you sure you'll be able to sleep alright?"

"They're my grandparents, Raphael. Their presence doesn't bother me." He fought the urge to squirm again under Raphael's long, analytical stare. "There's a plastic sheet covering the bed to protect it. You might want to remove it before getting into bed," Isaac informed him, hoping it would urge him to just go to bed.

"Okay. 'Night," Raphael said, heading to his assigned room after taking another minute or so to complete the stare.

"Goodnight," Isaac said, turning to head to the master bedroom at the end of the hall. "Sometimes it would be easier if he didn't have a brain," he mumbled to himself after closing the bedroom door softly behind him. He set his backpack on the floor next to the night stand and made the bed, pulling off his jeans and dropping them unceremoniously in the middle of the floor before crawling into it. He laid back against his pillow, letting out a long sigh of contentment and closing his eyes, only to see those of the girl again, accented by the flames. They were so vivid that he could see all of the agony, pain, and fear radiating out of their glow. Startled, he sucked a breath in and his eyes snapped open.

"Can you please just give me a little more time?" he whispered. "I'll come for you first thing tomorrow, I promise." He then slowly, cautiously, closed his eyes. He breathed a sigh of relief when nothing happened only to be startled by the burning girl, the scenario playing like a video in his mind. Heart pounding, he opened his eyes again. He rolled out of bed and dug around in his backpack for his cell phone, glad he'd been able to charge his reliable Droid in the car on the way there, before putting his jeans and shoes back on. He tiptoed through the house and snuck out the front door, glad that they were far enough out in the woods that Raphael hadn't seen any reason to lock his car. Opening up the flashlight app on his phone, he reached into the driver's side and hit a button on the dash that opened the trunk, then went to grab the painting.

He stood it up on top of his duffel bag, leaning it against the edge of the trunk to support it and shone the flashlight on it. He fought the chills that threatened to run through him. "As if it wasn't perturbing enough in the daylight," he breathed.

He was about to close his eyes to help him clear his mind, but thought better of it and looked down at the ground in front of him instead, taking deep breaths, trying to calm himself enough to be able to focus on the landscape in the painting. Once his heart slowed to a semi-normal pace, he looked back up at the painting.

His eyes intent, he was able to block the girl out completely, taking in the rock formations surrounding her and the still pool of water in the background. Wherever the incident was located, he could tell it didn't get much light. The time of day made no difference as he didn't even see moonlight glinting off of anything. The fire was the only light that defined the surrounding area.

As he studied the rocks, a cavern that he used to play in when he was a kid came to mind and the more he tried to convince himself that it being that cavern would be too simple, the more driven he felt to go check there first. "I suppose it's better than wasting time over here," he relented, carefully returning the painting to its previous position and closing the trunk, wincing at the deafening click that echoed into his ears.

He tip-toed around the side of the house, flashlight app off. Having gotten this far without alerting Raphael, the last thing he needed was to wake him up with his light shining through the guest bedroom window when he got to the back.

When he got to the back corner, he stopped, listening for any potential movement indoors. All he could hear was his heartbeat. Satisfied that Raphael was likely still sleeping, he tore across the back portion of the clearing and was consumed by the thick woods that lay beyond.

Once he was deep enough into the woods that his light most likely wouldn't be noticed from the house, he turned his flashlight app back on to make his trek faster and less of a strain on his eyes.

He didn't remember it taking very long to get to the cavern when he was a kid, but he wondered if he'd just spaced the time it had taken. His present journey was taking way longer than it should, being slowed down by the minimal light acknowledged.

After what felt like hours, but had, according to the clock on his phone, only been about twenty minutes, Isaac came to the steep hill that lead to the mouth of the cavern. He carefully made his way down the hill, taking quick baby steps until he got close enough to the bottom to close the distance in one giant leap.

He went into a crouch upon landing to absorb the shock, then stood back up slowly, peering into the cave, holding his light up in front of him as he began to walk towards it. Shortly after entering the cave, he trekked down a steep, narrow path that lead to the pool at the bottom level, watching his footing. Despite his caution, however, about half way down his foot hit a slippery spot, bringing him crashing to the smooth stone path and rolling to the bottom.

He blinked as he lay on his back on the floor of the cave, gazing up at the stalactites that hung, scrutinizing him, as they spun slowly like a mobile above him. Once the spinning stopped, it occurred to him that he'd dropped his phone in the fall. Grateful the flashlight app was still functioning, he slowly rolled over, looking around him for his lit up Droid. He spotted it about six feet away and slowly stood the rest of the way up, brushing off his jeans with his hands and trudging over to it, his body only making minor objections.

"I'd better find her tonight because I don't think I'm going to be able to get out of bed tomorrow," he mumbled, only to hear its echo at a normal volume.

When he reached the phone, he crouched down slowly to pick it up, pausing for a second in his transition to ascent. That's when he saw a shape with a reddish hue lying at the edge of the pool. His brow furrowed as he stared at it, rising slowly, this new distraction making the aches he’d felt before next to vanish. He slowly walked over to the shape to get a closer look.

While the shape was still partially blurred by the glinting of his light off the water that covered a fair portion of it, as he got closer, a pair of arms became distinct, between which laid what he presumed to be a torso that was covered in something green. ‘Some form of seaweed?’ he wondered.

As he crouched down, he noticed his heart pounding hard enough to make him wonder for a split second if the organ really could escape the body. His hand shook as he reached forward to reveal the remainder of the form. He realized the seaweed-like substance covering it was, in fact, hair. He gently pushed it aside, revealing a jaw that held the same hue as the arms in the light given off by his phone and littered with small blue leopard-like spots, and a doe-like ears of the same coloring.

His breath made an attempt at catching in his throat in response to the fact that this exotic girl was real, but Isaac didn’t allow it, focused on pulling her out of the water and flipping her onto her back to find out if she was still breathing. Aside from the possibility that she’d drowned, being washed on shore with her nose pressed against a rock couldn’t have helped matters any.

Once he had her laid out on a flat piece of rock, he put a hand in front of her nose to check for breathing only to feel nothing. He put two fingers against her jaw line to find no pulse. He took a deep breath to collect himself, then began to perform CPR. His determination compelled him to ignore his body’s complaints through most of the process. It wasn’t until his body was about to go on strike that the girl began to cough up water.

With a breath of relief, Isaac rolled her towards him onto her side to prevent her from inhaling it again. He backed up to give her space and watched as she laid a hand against the stone by her ribcage to support herself. Her breaths were deep as her lungs attempted to suck in as much air as possible, clearly desperate for the element they had been deprived of.

He reached for his phone so he could give the area they were in better lighting. Hearing her gasp, he turned to find her slit-pupil eyes staring at him, causing his breath to catch and his hear to jump to his throat. He was mesmerized as he looked into the same eyes that had persuaded him to get out of bed and begin his search for her earlier that night, all of the agony, pain, and fear embodied in their glowing depths.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he told her gently, hoping to calm her down.

Her response, of course, did not align with his expectations as she made an attempt to draw back, still on her hands and knees.

As she tripped over herself in her attempted escape, Isaac saw her eyes lose focus. They rolled back into her head just before she fell on her side, trying unsuccessfully to catch herself.

Isaac stood again and walked over to where the girl had fallen. He sat beside her as he tried to decide what to do from here. One thing he knew was that he couldn't let anyone know about her. There was no telling who had been involved in her traumatization. He closed his eyes, finding hers in his mind again. This time he didn't force his open with a start. He kept them closed so he could stare into hers. He found himself filled with empathy for her. Despite having felt her fear in his dreams, having seen the effects whatever had been done to her had had on her, he still had no idea exactly what had happened to her to cause her so much distress.

He opened his eyes again and looked at the girl lying on the ground in front of him. He looked over at his Droid, debating whether it would be a good idea to raise it to get a better look. With her being unconscious again, he figured it wouldn't bother her. Raising the phone, he shone the light on her face, careful not to angle it at her eyes. He took in the small blue spikes that trailed up her nose and spread into a lotus-like shape on her forehead. The blue leopard spots that adorned her ears and jaw covered her neck. He couldn't see anything past that as the rest of her body was covered by a jumpsuit, save for her delicate hands, of course, which held the same reddish hue, but lacked the spots.

He looked back at her face, taking in her frown and the lines that accompanied it, telling him that frowning was something she did frequently. It was then that something else caught his attention. He altered the angle of his light to get a more clear view. In this lighting, he couldn't be completely certain, but it appeared that the red hue was not her natural skin color. His analysis along with his memory of her skin never having been this color in his nightmares, it became evident that the present hue of her flesh had actually resulted from her being burned.

'The fire,' he remembered. 'I was too late.'

He swallowed hard as he studied her. He needed to figure out what to do. He'd already failed to prevent the fire from getting her. He'd be damned if he was going to let anything else happen to her now.

Part of him wanted to leave her here temporarily, to make sure Raphael was gone before he brought her home to prevent anyone from finding out about her. On the other hand, despite all she'd been through, there was no telling how long she'd be out for and, with the fear she'd looked at him with, he knew that if she was awake when he came back for her he'd have a very difficult time moving her to the house.

He let out a sigh. Raphael was his best friend, had been for ten years at least. And he'd already said he was finished asking questions. He knew he'd also claimed he'd be missing a graduation party if he stayed, but Isaac had a feeling that had just been a story to make him feel bad for not being forthcoming with the situation. Despite that, he was sure that, if he explained the situation to Raphael, he'd be willing to leave until he felt it was safe to tell him what was going on. Not to say that he didn't trust Raphael, but, with a situation like this, one could never be too careful.

Decision made, he got to his feet and bent down to lift her into his arms. It was then that he registered her weight, or, more accurately, her lack thereof. Upon feeling her protruding ribcage through her wet jumpsuit, he found himself hoping that these newfound facts about her physical build were natural for her species. Of course, the dreams and the way she’d looked at him, in addition to her burned skin, crushed his hopes by labeling that idea as painstakingly false. Now his responsibility went far beyond simply knowing that he couldn't let anyone find out about her. A sudden strong feeling of protectiveness overcame him.

"I'll take care of you," he whispered, carefully brushing a rebellious strand of hair out of her eyes and turning to carry her out of the cavern.

The girl's lack of weight had made the trek home relatively easy. With so little strain on his arms, he'd been able to keep the light shining ahead of them to prevent him from stumbling. The big challenge was when he got near the clearing that the house was in. It was then that he was forced to turn off the flashlight app and finish the journey nearly blind, his only aide the moonlight.

He snuck back into the house as quietly as he'd snuck out and he found himself grateful that he'd packed his pajama bottoms along with a couple of spare shirts in his backpack. The girl was noticeably thinner than he was, but he needed something dry to change her into and his pajama bottoms had the bonus feature of the draw string, which he was certain would make them fit her.

Once he'd gotten her changed and tucked in, he grabbed his backpack and left the room, closing the door softly behind him. He then proceeded to change his own clothes in the bathroom and go out to set himself up on the couch in the living room, grabbing a blanket from the linen closet by the bathroom on his way there.

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