We walked along the path that twisted around the large park. The sun was setting, the sky was glowing, a beautiful arrangement of blues, purples, and reds. Trees surrounded us in the open green space, lit up by strings of white, warm glow lights.
Felix and I walked side by side, enjoying the peaceful evening while we snacked on our ice-cream cones. I licked the melting chocolate and vanilla swirl before I turned and looked at him.
“So, why Bethel’s Devils?” I asked.
He turned and looked down at me, an eyebrow raised while he contemplated his answer.
“Seemed like the best choice at the time.” He shrugged. “I didn’t really feel like I had a place anywhere in the world once I left the institution. Mel and Ryker seemed like they had it together…I mean they had each other so I think that helped.” He frowned as he thought about it. “I just didn’t belong, but at the time Bethel’s made me feel like I did.”
“So you joined a gang?” I raised my own eyebrow as I took another lick of my ice-cream.
“Club.” He corrected me. I let out a small laugh.
“It’s a gang…everyone knows it.” I shook my head.
“Yet you don’t seem to mind.”
I shrugged. “I have a feeling, given your position, that if at any time you wanted to leave they wouldn’t put up much of a fight.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Well for starters, they don’t beat your body black and blue for not wearing the patch at all times.”
He nodded his head, “True. They understand that I’m there when they need me, or when I want to be. I show up, do my job and move on.”
I popped the last bit of my cone into my mouth and tossed the napkin in the garbage as we passed it.
“Have you ever thought about leaving?” I turned to look at him. He was analyzing his cone, his lips sealed in a tight line.
“Honestly,” He sighed. “Everyday.”
I looked at him in surprise, not expecting him to say that. I waited for him to elaborate.
“What about you?” He asked instead. “Why spend so much time investigating White Valley?”
It was my own turn to look ahead and contemplate how much I would say.
The sound of my childhood screams leaked in the back of my mind. I cringed as I mentally pushed them back into the damaged box and added another layer of tape over top. I squeezed my eyes shut before I opened them and blinked away my memories.
“Being a Stitch…” I trailed off, trying to find the right words. “Being a Stitch is rare, really rare. I think the whole time I was in White Valley, there were maybe eight to ten of us out of the hundreds of kids.” I shoved my hands into my jacket pockets.
“Being rare meant that we got extra special attention from Clyde, Dr. Isodene. He went out of his way to spend as much time studying us, testing us, experimenting on us…” I cleared my throat.
“What he did…what he let the others do…” I shook my head, trying to fight back the memories, the screams of terror that threatened to escape my poorly made mind vault. “He doesn’t deserve to get away with what he did, none of them do. So if that means I have to scrape to get by in my life, in order to get justice for all the lives that he took, that he ruined, then so be it.” The anger got stronger as I continued to speak. “They all deserve what they get.”
Felix was silent for a moment, letting my words sink in before he asked, “Do you have a day that you were planning on seeing Sarah?”
“I was thinking of going Saturday morning, does that work for you?”
“Yeah, I’ll come pick you up.” He smiled. “This time I’ll bring the car.” He winked, I let out a small laugh.
Felix pulled into my apartment parking lot and cut the engine. I slid from the back of the bike and fumbled with the clasp under my chin. He moved from the bike and removed his own helmet before turning to me and watching my cold fingers struggle with the clasp.
“May I?” He gestured towards my hands.
I looked at him, my eyes wide, I licked my lips and took a deep breath.
“Sure, thanks.” I dropped my hands and tilted my head back, just enough that he would be able to see the twisted straps.
His fingers brushed against my chin and neck as he unclasped the ties. I swallowed the nervous lump that had formed in my throat, and tried to calm my racing heart. He moved his hands to the side of the helmet and pulled it off my head. I smiled up at him as I fixed my hair, suddenly self conscious of how I looked.
“Thanks for tonight.”
“Can we do this again sometime?” He asked as he set the helmets on the back of his bike.
“Sure.” The words came from my mouth faster than my brain had time to register what I really wanted to do.
His smile widened with my answer. “Great, maybe we can do something together after we visit Sarah.”
He shrugged before he stepped towards me, his fingers coming up and brushing my hair back from the side of my face. I froze, my body went stiff as I tried to force myself not to flinch away from his touch.
“Do you trust me?” He asked.
“Do you trust yourself?”
I swallowed. “No.”
He looked down at my lips and then back to my hazel eyes before he moved his face closer to mine. He smiled at me, I could feel and smell his minty breath across my face.
“We have to change that.” He whispered before he leaned in and gently pressed his lips against mine.
His lips were wet and warm against mine. I felt his fingers move from my hair to the side of my jaw and against my neck as he pulled me in closer. I felt his chest brush against mine. I wasn’t sure if he could feel my racing heart through his jacket, but it felt like it was about to jump out from the protection of my ribs. I stared at him with wide eyes for a short moment, while I squeezed my hands into fists at my side. I relaxed my hands and moved my shaking fingers to the open collar of his jacket and pulled him in closer while I closed my eyes and savored the feeling of his warmth and kiss. He smiled against my lips, removing them just enough to break the kiss before he planted one more peck against them before stepping away.
I let my hands fall to my sides, I let out a short breath as I tried to real myself back in.
“See you Saturday, darlin’.” He winked at me before he collected his helmet and put it back on his head.
“See you Saturday.” I blinked, trying to calm my racing heart, and shaking hands. I shoved them into my jacket pockets before I turned and walked towards the building doors.