In spite of the conversation we had, everything else was flowing smoothly, the tickets were bough without any question asked and we queued up in the short and fast going line to board the ferry.
“What was Adrian talking to you about?” I turned towards the voice, Isaiah.
“I thought you didn’t want to speak to me, that this couldn’t work.”
He actually laughed, my head whipped towards him. I couldn’t tell whether to be fuming or embarrassed, it must have been a mixture of both. “Who said I didn’t want to speak to you? I said it couldn’t work now-”
I snapped. It was as if he didn’t know what was going to happen to me, what I’d have to sacrifice. “Then it can never work.” It wasn’t too long ago that I was saying the exact same thing and trying to force myself to end whatever it was between us, but it didn’t work and I wasn’t strong enough to do it. Hopefully, I’d be strong enough to do it now.
“We have enough time in the world Alexis.”
“For you maybe.”
“What do you mean?” Once again I looked up at him, he was trying so hard to figure out what I meant and when he did, his eyebrows scrunched up like the thought alone was too much to bear.
As soon as his lips opened and he was about to say something else, I walked away, moving closer as the line did. It was the perfect timing as the operator ushered me forwards.
I handed him the ticket, he took it gingerly watching me suspiciously. He was an old man, greying at the sides of his dark hair and a permanent scowl etched onto his face. “What exactly are you planning to do when we reached France?” His voice cheery, but his face told a different story.
I wasn’t all to good for thinking on my feet. “For- for-”
“Work experience.” Isaiah filled in, staring the conductor down, cautiously waiting to see if he’d give my ticket back or maybe worst, pull out a gun.
He didn’t believe us. Shit. Glancing over to the rest of us he focused his attention back on Isaiah. “What all of you?”
Nodding, I could tell he was reaching for his gun. Slowly but surely. “Yes. All of us.” I placed my hand quickly over his, if he rushed now that would certainly blow our covered. The man noticed my abrupt movement and before he could bombard us further with questions, I laced my hands through his. He held it. Tight.
The conductor rolled his eyes as if it say another group of lovesick teenagers getting a wild night of fun in France. I could tell he didn’t believe the work experience crap. Me pausing more than gave that away.
“Go ahead.” Moving aside he granted us entrance, asking a boy behind him to bring up our car.
My hands fell to my sides, the heat dissipated and that’s when I realized maybe I didn’t have the strength in me to resist him and pull away but God I wanted to. For his safety not mine.
Following his lead, we walked inside the ferry. Luckily this one had individual cabins so we made our way to our allocated cabin. I flushed as this narrow hallway held no space and I could feel every inch of Isaiah pressed up on me.
“Here.” Discontinuing his walk, he opened the cabin door easily with one hand, letting everyone through first and securely shutting the door behind him. It seemed now his took extra precautions as I could tell he didn’t want any repeats of what happened at the bar.
Neither did I.
The cabin was small but had enough space to occupy all of us, there was two plush grey leather seats facing each other. I sat down fully expecting Zee to accompany me but instead she sat opposite with a sly smirk on her lips. Elijah resided next to her and Adrian was at the far end of the seat.
I knew why she did that and I didn’t appreciate it because that meant Isaiah was with me. He had to as all the other spaces were readily taken. Realising this he didn’t seem at all fazed but hurriedly sat down, his legs spread out as he explained again what the plan would be when we reached France.
He was clarifying the plan loud and clear but all my attention was drawn to was how his leg grazed mine and the heat emitting from his legs was an insurmountable distraction.
“Do you understand the plan Alexis?” Immediately I snapped from my trance like state looking precisely into his eyes, he docked an eyebrow patiently waiting for my response.
“Run me through it again.”
I was expecting him to be frustrated by my insubordinate behaviour but lightly he smiled and nodded. “When we reach France it’ll be more easier to contact them. We crash in one of Adrian’s hotels and wait until we make contact or either Zee, Elijah or me will have to make our way up there and tell them the new location of the escort team. We’ll make sure you get there safely-”
Bursting out with a very intense. “Not you.” He was stagnant waiting for me to further emphasise my sudden outburst. “I don’t want you to go. You not supposed to leave my side, remember.” Both of us knew that it wasn’t the reason and it was clear enough for the others too. But the thought of him somewhat deserting me made me uneasy.
“Fine.” I locked eyes with him, taking a deep breath and continued. “If it comes to that. I’ll stay with you. ”
The tension brimmed to the highest as everyone’s eyes now fell on me. “Thank you.” Trying to sound confident I failed and my voice ended up wavering in spite of my vocal impairment.
“But if we don’t make it there.” All eyes fell on Elijah. “If they catch up to us again.”
Isaiah shrugged, not bothering about what he was up against. I couldn’t tell if I admired that or thought it to be just plain negligent. But if he wasn’t scared, who should I be? “We fight.”
By the long agonising minutes that passed, we were well over halfway through our trip.
The surging of the machine on the gentle sea and the grinding of the engine didn’t put my mind at ease. Everything that people have sacrificed for me, it all came up to this. After we docked, I would be repaying all my debts.
The sky slightly darkening, stormy clouds hissing down to us. I could tell despite the calmness of the sky, a storm was about to erupt any minute.
Calmly a hand rested on my leg, it was so soft that if a voice didn’t follow I wouldn’t have noticed it there. “Hey, you okay?” Staring up at Isaiah, his cap was fitted around his head and whilst everyone had taken theirs off all apart from me, I still have the very visible, very attention drawing bandage wrapped around my temple. It made me curious when he didn’t take it off, it casted a shadow over his features and I was aching to properly see his face.
Reaching upwards, slowly I removed the cap, my hand accidentally brushing through his silky blonde hair. He stilled for a movement before clearing his throat, though he never removed his eyes away from mine.
I could tell he was wanting for an explanation for that seemingly normal act if it was between two people. But the intimacy between me and him was more vivid than ever. Through that one movement it said all we needed to say without any actual words. “I prefer seeing your face.”
He sighed a pained expression on his face. “I thought we’ve been through this-”
Smiling, I couldn’t help but wonder if he knew what he looked liked right now, his lips might have been telling me something but his whole demeanour was arguing against that. “I know. But it wasn’t too long ago that you were readily professing your feelings for me, remember?” It was a rhetorical question and I wasn’t expecting a reply and thankfully he didn’t.
This moment I was really glad that everyone else in the cabin was sleeping or elsewhere.
Directly ahead of me Zee laid there, her head hanging low, her eyes sealed shut. Little shakes came from her body. She was cold. Knowing that Isaiah was watching me, I pulled out a blanket from my backpack draping it over her shoulders, she stirred a little but her eyes remained shut. A piece of her tight textured hair fell in her face, partially covering her left eyes. Carefully I tucked it in between her ears.
She look so at peace, it was a rewarding seeing her like that after everything she endured. And I was positive she’d only get better.
“For someone that didn’t grow up with any friends. You sure know how to be a good one.”
That little act of kindness meant nothing in my books, what Zee had to do was much harder. I don’t think I would even attempt to leave if it was Isaiah. Even though she’d deny it, she is a lot braver than I’d ever be.
“I have a little brother, Isaiah. He is my best friend. And I don’t find it funny you knowing everything about me. How did the Nations even get that information?”
Turning my full attention him, he smirked the side of his lips pulling upwards. “We have our ways.”
“So you know everything that Eaton did to us, my mother, me. Why didn’t you come earlier? Why couldn’t you help us?”
His cocky nature soon disappeared, his smirk quickly replaced with a grimace. “I couldn’t. I wanted to. But I couldn’t, the Nations have rules and regulations we have too follow. If I went too earlier than I would never have got you by yourself when I did and you’ll be less willing to help. If I went too late whoever those people are continuously coming after you, would have finished the job.”
“How did you even know where I was? You know, when we first met.”
“I was sent to surveillance the area, keep tabs on you. Then it hit me, that you’d probably not agree to this unless someone sat you down and told you what you are and how valuable you are. I was making my way to met you at your home, that’s when I saw you take off, chased after by the military and getting stalked by that Unknown. I knew that it would be the perfect time to intervene. And obviously I couldn’t let you die.”
Racking my head for a response, it was challenging absorbing all that information at once. So they knew everything about me, about my life. And they could well have forced me up to HQ, kicking and screaming but they decided against that. Which in my opinion was the right decision. “Wait, Isaiah. If there was a breech of my information that means whoever is after me, they know where I lived. They know how valuable Evan is to me, they go after him-”
By this point I was hyperventilating. I was so shocked by my stupidity that this didn’t cross my mind beforehand. He stopped me, placing his two hands on my shoulder, rubbing them gently. “It’s okay Alexis, it’s okay. I thought of your family’s safety beforehand and back at the complex I requested for twenty four hour watch around your place. No one is getting to anyone.”
This fact alone was some reassurance but that bad feeling, kept tugging at me. Like something wasn’t right. “Are you sure?”
“I would never purposely put your loved ones at risk. I know how much they mean to you.”
I did trust Isaiah. And if he said that they were safe, I just had to do my best to believe that.
“What happens when I get there?”
“I guess they’ll run some tests to check your fitness levels. Give you time to properly heal. But from then on I’m in the dark.”
“Are they good people there,” He gave me a confused look. “In the Nations. Are they good people?”
“They might be tough and hard. But yes Alexis they are. Or I wouldn’t be working for them.”
“If you had to chance to go back. I mean if you’re parents were still alive.” I paused, watching him, assessing if I hit a rough spot but be seemed fine. “You know, live a relatively normal life. Fall in love, get married, have children.”
“Are you offering Alexis?” He smirked, I could tell he was trying to make light of the situation but then seeing how serious I was he stopped. “I guess so. I mean I’m grateful for them taking me under their wings and keeping from the streets and drugs and crime. But who doesn’t want a normal, perfect life. Sometimes you can’t have what you hoped for. Alexis, you can still fall in love.”
“But you said it wasn’t allowed in the Nations. That it would mess things up and if they knew they’d drop you.”
“I guess for the right person then. I’d be willing to leave everything behind.” His eyes bored into mine and the intensity again was overbearing I found my playing tentatively with my fingers, like they were the most interesting set of fingers in the world.
I didn’t continue and neither did he.
Silence, absolute silence. Until it was too deafening, that I couldn’t take it anymore. “Do you miss them? Your parents, do you miss them?”
I knew he wouldn’t take offence to my question and I was extremely happy for it. He looked down. “I didn’t really know them Alexis. I was young, really young. How can you miss someone you don’t know?”
“Don’t be. I’m not.” The statement took me by surprise.
“How could you say that, they were your parents-”
“They were two junkies, Alexis! Shooting up another dose with their baby boy in the next room. Overdosing, leaving him near their rotting bodies. I almost died, the neighbour heard my constant crying and since it just wouldn’t stop they knew something was wrong. They rather get their next fix than look after their only son. Someone other than my own parents had to save me.” His breathing rate sky rocketed and both his fists clenched up.
Cautiously, I drew closer towards him, wrapping my arms around him in a tight, brief hug. Reminding myself that I had to keep my distance. “Wasn’t there anyone else that would take care of you, a grandma. Or an uncle?”
He shook his head. “I was told that they excommunicated themselves from the rest of their family, despite constant help. They drew the line when both of them started stealing and I don’t mean small amount, two thousand, higher. Writing bad checks and cashing in the money before it was discovered, committing fraud. ”
“They were criminals Alexis. And I know that this line of work isn’t exactly clean cut but at least I’m making a difference.”
“They’re still your parents Isaiah. You can hate them forever. ”
He shook his head, laughing bitterly. “No, but I could try.”
There just wasn’t something adding up, how did he know all this if he was just a baby? “How do know you all this. Who told you about your parents Isaiah?”
“The Nations adopted me in almost immediately. And when I was old enough they told me everything about my past. About my sad excuse for parents. And even sadder attempt of a family-”
“You don’t think that they couldn’t have being lying to you, coercing you, trying to bend you to their will?”
“At first, yes. I didn’t want that to be the legacy my parents felt behind for me. But their evidence was too compelling that it just couldn’t been ignored.”
“Isaiah. I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry-” Again, I stopped myself, I really didn’t have an idea what I could say now to comfort him, he was so set in hating his parents and his past life that I couldn’t change his mind even if I tried.
“You don’t need to say anything. It wasn’t your fault.” Another wave of quiet passed, his features looked so tense I could tell he was trying to forget.
“Hey, Isaiah. Your past doesn’t define you. It doesn’t make you, you. You’re Isaiah, my Isaiah.” That was the best I could come up with and it worked.
Giving me a reassuring smile he took my hand placing a gentle kiss on the back of my hand. He looked up. “Thank you for not seeing me different.”
“I could never see you any differently.”
“You talked about nightmares before, what about them?”
“You remembered that?”
“I remember everything you say even if you think I don’t. So tell me about it. Does anything trigger it?”
I stopped myself, trying to think how I would reply, I never told him about this so I didn’t know where to start. “Not really. The first time was my brother, Evan.” Again, I halted in my speech the image of Evan’s face draining off, I needed to close my eyes and forget it. I breathed out. “It was so horrible Isaiah, I saw him die before my eyes, he looked so inhumane and -and.”
Still I struggled to find my words.
“I’m here Alexis. I’ve got you.”
I nodded. “His face Isaiah it was - he died before my eyes- and he felt so cold. And Jordon, I had a dream that he shot me. Two shots. I know what you’re thinking it’s just a dream it’s not real but Isaiah after the first one, after I woke up, I smelt sulphur, it was light but it was there. The same smell when we were in the-”
“Woods.” Not realising I was still looking downwards, I slowly gazed up looking at him through my lashes. It was clear in his face that he looked confused, thinking how it was even possible.
I nodded. “And that when I got the scratches Isaiah. It’s not possible that Unknown actually came in-”
“Not possible. Not possible Alexis, our alarm system would have triggered it.”
“Then why didn’t it? For those people that came after us, Isaiah why wasn’t it triggered earlier?”
“I don’t know but I’m still trying to figure that out.”
“So it’s possible that someone would have come in and done that to me.”
“Highly unlikely or we would have caught something in the camera or found someone doing the perimeter check.”
“So then what?”
“We’ll figure it. How is it holding up?” He gestured to my still bandaged wrist. Despite of all my injuries that was the least of my worries still it was nice of him asking.
I smiled. “Isaiah, out of all my injuries, I’m grateful that was the lesser severity.”
He smiled back. “I’m just checking.” Fishing out a water bottle out of my backpack, handing it over to me.
“I know. Thanks.” Taking the bottle off him we fell into another silence but this time it wasn’t awkward. We were comfortable with just each other’s presence.
“What about the dream of Jordon?”
“Oh, well he was like glowing, brightly glowing. And I felt myself drawn to him like a magnet. I got closer, he grabbed onto my wrists and it felt like jolts of electricity was flowing through me, it was so painful Isaiah. And then he shot me. Just like that, I couldn’t escape, I couldn’t break free.” Burying my face into my hands, I grimaced.
Slowly, I felt hands lightly take my hands away from face.
Holding my hands in his. He smiled again. “We’ll solve this together. And that didn’t happen, I know it felt like it did but it didn’t. You are here, now. And Evan is safe. It could be a probably that it was your subconscious playing tricks on you when you smelt the sulphur-”
“What, you don’t believe me?”
“Of course I do, Alexis. But that is a plausible explanation and it doesn’t make what you went through any less than what it was. If you didn’t have nightmares with everything that’s happening, I’d be more surprised at that. But when ever you have those dreams just find my voice, follow it. I’ll always be there.” By now, his hand clutched to the nape of my neck, forcing me to maintain eye contact. “Always.”