Lacuna: A Nexus Troupe Novel

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Home (Part 1)

Suri must have screamed everything out—all of her fear, all of her confusion, all of her outrage—because now she was completely silent; had been for over several hours. She hadn’t uttered a single coherent sentence since she had been pulled from the tracks, so what did it matter if she didn’t talk at all? It would just be an annoyance to try. Although some of the more annoying sounds came from this old woman who wouldn’t stop wailing like someone had died.

That was one of the first reasons that she had clung to the leather jacket of the older man holding her. She had clawed at it so tightly that lighter lines of brown marred the well-kept fabric and made the man wince. Unfortunately, the more questions people asked, the tighter she clung to him.

“Are you alright, dear? Are you hurt?”

“What’s your name?”

“What happened? Did someone call the police?”

All that the man she had clung to had asked her to do was ‘breathe.’ No questions. No need for answers. Just ‘breathe.’

The officers who had arrived could try as hard as they wanted, in as many ways as they knew how, to glean information on how she had ended up in the tracks but she couldn’t explain something that she didn’t understand. She definitely wasn’t about to tell them that she had meant to jump in front of the train, not be pushed. So instead of answering anything she just curled in quietly to the man letting her stick to him like a thorn, inhaling the smell of rosewood and antiseptic, as he murmured something about ‘shock’ and scolded the officers for not knowing enough to recognize it.

That still didn’t excuse how embarrassing she had been, she thought with a frown.

She sat up, untangling herself from the thin sheets. Gathering her hair away from the sweat coating her neck, she took a deep breath and looked over the unfamiliar room.

It was a plain, homely room. There were no pictures on the white walls, and the moonlight barely slipped through the thin window dressings, but she couldn’t seem to sleep. A grey area rug met her feet as she made her way out of the bed only to brace her hand on the dark, wooden nightstand as a dizziness overcame her.

She sighed and wiped her brow on the oversized long sleeve shirt that she was wearing. As she lowered her hand, her eyes fell to her palm.

The bird was gone. She wasn’t sure why the thought to look for it had crossed her mind, but it had. Maybe it was lost during the chaos or had fled away from the swarm of onlookers? Maybe it had fallen back down into the tracks when she was lifted and pulled onto the platform harshly?

Except, as strange as it was, Suri vaguely recalled the creature burrowing into her hand—sinking into the flesh of her palm like an insect tucking itself into a flower. She flexed the fingers of her left hand, remembering the pain that had radiated through it and the rest of her arm. She recalled the way it made her feel like she had been set on fire. Blushing as she lowered her hand back down to her side, she quietly spoke to herself.

“I need to never watch another Aliens Attack movie again.”

With that, she opened the door, leaning forward to glance down both ends of the narrow hallway. If she remembered correctly, going to the right would bring her to the main space of the single-floored dwelling. So that’s where she went, cautiously, in search of a glass of water.

The condominium was vastly different than her home. It was simple, but clearly tasteful and expensive. The money hadn’t gone to sentimental items and personal touches though. If the owner wanted to get up and leave at the drop of a hat, then they easily could. As her socked feet lightly padded against the hardwoods and her fingers grazed the unfurnished grey walls, she realized that she favored the emotionless space.

Before she could round the corner into the main space, a stern voice greeted her, causing her to stop in surprise. Although she had never fallen asleep, she had thought it was too early in the morning for anyone to have already woken up.

“That is certainly the last time that I agree to do you any favors.”

Suri leaned to peek around the bend in the hallway to peer towards who had spoken. It was the man who had saved her. He was casually leaning against the sleek, leather couch, looking petulant, with a cellphone pressed to his ear.

He was close to being completely average. Sharp nose, narrow jaw, just above regular height. He was built enough to lift her from the train tracks though the lean muscles under his burgundy V-neck sweater didn’t indicate as much. The color of his shirt added some semblance of pigment to his pale skin and only amplified the ways in which he was a textbook example of what she imagined an average Nepenthean in his twenties or thirties to be.

Almost average. Only, his hair was an odd color for his age. The light from the recessed lights in the ceiling were shining off of the long strands splayed across his face. It wasn’t bleached blond, like she thought initially, but genuinely white, like sugar. When the sight of it had replaced the glow of the train lights, Suri vaguely remembered how she had marveled at the color as he had cradled her shaking body.

“When I had agreed to join you in the city, it was for one purpose,” he gave the receiver a tense smirk, “So why then, pray tell, am I now burdened with whom you sought to find when I clearly wanted nothing to do with the situation at all?”

A pause. She tucked herself back behind the wall and frowned. Was he talking about her?

“A mishap you say?” the man continued. “Well I should expect it to be corrected shortly.”

Another pause. When the man spoke again, his voice had lowered. Though whether it was in annoyance or severity, Suri wasn’t sure.

“It would be best to cut our ties immediately and have her return home,” he scoffed. “Wherever that may be. I can’t even begin to describe how absurd of a spectacle that was.”

Suri flinched. That was the most embarrassing part.

When she had been resurrected from the tracks, some of the first questions that the officers had asked were about as annoying as they came—what her name was, if she had been hurt, what she had seen? Then they had asked her where she lived. And home was the last place that she wanted to be. So, after they had asked that, she could only remember clawing across the ground to try and get away from them, suddenly irrational and inconsolable. Pleading.

She had even gone so far as to pull at the man in the leather jacket and beg him not to let the police take her back home. She had practically forced him to take her with him, refusing to calm down until he had conceded to take her wherever she wanted to go. Then, once she was in his car, she went mute once more.

“Eavesdropping is unbecoming, young lady.”

Crap, she thought, tumbling back to reality. She peaked back around the corner to meet the dark eyes sharply focused upon her. The man didn’t look too thrilled.

“I’ll call you back,” he said, lowering the phone from his ear and ending the call.

She wanted to move, or at the very least look like less of an idiot as she hugged the wall, but his narrowed eyes held her in place. Even as he placed his phone into the back pocket of his black skinny jeans, he watched her guardedly. When she continued to shield herself behind the corner as if he were the invader in her home and not the other way around, he sighed.

“It’s just past sunrise,” he said, his harsh look flattening, “Go back to sleep.”

Suri frowned but he only raised a brow at her before standing upright and walking out of her line of sight. The indifferent reaction to her caution released Suri from her anxious standstill. She moved into the main space. Her eyes watched him turn behind the black counter of the open kitchen before she slowly took in the posh modernity of the open living space.

The space from the door to the kitchen was fully visible. Deep and medium brown leather seating was balanced out by a large oak wood coffee table. Books, bowls, and small abstract sculptures accented nearly every flat surface in a neat display of décor. The polished silver frame of the chair she walked up to smeared beneath her fingertips, creating an imperfection in the methodically clean area.

Her eyes rose to the high ceilings and then lowered towards the man standing by the stainless-steel stove. Instead of moving towards him or back to the room, she froze once more. Her nervous fingers tugged and twisted the oversize sleeves of the shirt she wore.

She wasn’t sure what to do.

Then, a sharp whistling sound screeched alive. It shrieked, making her ears ring with the sound of metal brakes on rails. She quickly covered the sides of her head with her hands to drown out the noise. Without realizing it, she let out her own short scream.

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