Life On A Balance
Although the scenery had changed and the bed was different, if not a bit uncomfortable, Sirri had had no trouble falling asleep. Of course, he had had a little help by making exhaustive love with his wife of two hours. Wife. He had a wife again, but thank the gods of the universe that she was nothing like the first one. He pondered those few thoughts while he remained laid out in bed. In fact, he hadn't bothered to open his eyes yet. He was simply enjoying his first night as a newlywed husband. Again, it shook him to think of himself as married once more. When Makenna agreed to give him another chance, he wasn't certain where they would go from that point. It was true that they had been engaged before he messed up, but would that status suddenly return? Was that what he expected? He wasn't sure. All he knew was that the moment he made love to her and held her in his arms, he wanted nothing more than to marry her. Considering what he had done, he was surprised that she accepted when he suggested they drop everything and elope. He didn't want to wait another moment. The car accident had implanted hints of his mortality all through his mind. He didn't want to leave any stone unturned, not for the rest of his life. Makenna confessed that hearing of his accident had done the very same to her thought patterns. He wondered why it took tragic events to pull people back together. It should have happened before this. In fact, it shouldn't have had to happen at all.
Sirri pushed the thoughts out of his mind as he turned to his side. He reached out for Makenna, but she wasn't there. It was then and only then that he opened his eyes. Using his elbows, he pushed his body up to a sitting position. It was dark in the room and it took his eyes a moment to adjust. Their hotel room was quite small, but it had come equipped with a table and two chairs. Sirri made out the shape of Makenna's body. She was seated at the table with her legs drawn up in the chair. He thought she might be wearing his discarded shirt. Her head was bent, and it appeared that she was writing something. For a moment, he said nothing. He watched her silently, taken aback by the way she had created her own private space in a room that was no more than a fancy, overpriced cracker box. Her behavior wasn't unusual, she had often gone off into her own world, but somehow the sight bothered him. An uneasy feeling attacked him. It was one he couldn't describe, but he knew he didn't like it. At one point, she raised her head, taking her attention from whatever she had been writing to gaze down at her left hand. He had bought her a gold band as soon as they arrived in town before presenting her with the engagement ring she had given back a few months ago. She stared down at them now, touching them, whispering words beneath her breath that he could not understand. He almost felt like a voyeur watching her the way that he was. She hadn't noticed that he was awake. He was tempted to lie back down, feign sleep, and wait for her to come back to bed.
He was about to do just that when she turned her head suddenly, noticing that he was watching her. A surprised gasp escaped her. She had apparently been a million miles away. "Makenna, are you okay," he managed to ask. "Is the baby bothering?" He knew the answer to his own question, but he didn't want to come out and ask her about her late night writing, the way she touched her rings. She would give over that information eventually…but in due time.
She shook her head as she stood, making her way slowly back to the bed. Before climbing in next to him, she unbuttoned and discarded the shirt. She turned to her side to face him as her hand reached out, settling against his naked thigh. "No. It's nothing like that."
He nodded and smiled. "Writing in the dark is very hard on the eyes. I've done it before, but I don't endorse it." Her hand had begun caressing his skin. Every now and again, her fingers would slip inside his thigh, making tingling little circles. There was definitely something on her mind. She had approached him tentatively, as if they were strangers. Again, this was another personality quirk of hers. This behavior usually came just before a bit of information that would likely anger him. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"I didn't want to for a while, but I didn't expect this to happen with us," she began. "I was once told if I needed to exorcise a demon, that I should write my feelings out on paper, and then mail it to the North Pole, like an outrageous Christmas list to Santa. I did it a lot in my teens, since my father didn't believe in having therapy or taking anti-depressants. When I grew up, I lost the desire to do it. I had you, Barb, and my sister to sound off to when things went haywire. But when we parted, I lost you, I couldn't talk to Barb, and my sister didn't know what happened to us. So, I started doing it again. I'm ashamed to say that I used Niko to sound off to as well. I regret that."
He gazed at her steadily. She had never looked so young or vulnerable. In that moment, he saw what she looked like when she was a small child. "You should regret nothing that you've had to do. I failed you. You needed someone, even if it was Niko…"
"No, Sirri, you don't understand," she said quietly. "I told him things, but I never wanted him. Not one time did I want anyone in my life that wasn't you." She sighed heavily before shaking her head. "I didn't know if we were going to get back together or not, but I knew I had to eventually tell you about the baby. I…I didn't want to have another man in my life, not while I carried your child. It never crossed my mind. We spent a lot of time together, we talked, but not once did I want Niko like I wanted you. He got confused…"
Her voice faded out totally for a moment. Her words disturbed him greatly. He was almost certain she was about to tell him something that would make him angry enough to do bodily harm to Niko Milionis. "What did he do to you, Makenna?"
She swallowed hard. She wanted to get this out before she started blubbering all over the place. She didn't want to do that. "The night of your accident, I went to his place after we had dinner. I intended to tell him I wanted to cool it, but I suppose he took it as an invitation for me to sleep with him. He tried, but I didn't want him. I fought him off. He got a little rough. I managed to get away from him and that's when I told him I didn't want anything but a professional relationship with him. I didn't care what he did to me, but I didn't want him to hurt the baby. I was thinking of nothing else."
Sirri allowed her words to sink in slowly. The enormity of them was almost staggering. Each hit like a thousand fists. He didn't know what to do or say first. He actually didn't know if he could speak. "I want to kill him," he finally said. His words were dark and severe.
Makenna was shocked by both his reaction and words. Before he spoke, she had watched him closely, gauging his reaction. It was the first time in two years he had been expressionless…until he stated his intentions. "I don't think you should do or say anything," she said quietly. "I didn't tell you so you would want to beat him up for me. I'm not one who asks anyone else to fight my battles for me. You know that. I told you because I wanted to be honest with you. That's what I want for us both."
For half a moment, he focused his eyes elsewhere. After he gained control of his murderous urges, he looked up at her. "I want that as well," he said. "Now more than ever. We can't let him get away with it. What if something had happened to you…to the baby?"
"Baby, I know," she whispered. "I know. But it didn't. I don't want to think about him anymore. I thoroughly believe that he got the message."
Had he? Sirri didn't know if he trusted it. His mind kept going back to Linda's urgent plea. Although he had basically blown it off, his mind began to question the events surrounding his recent accident. Both had decided it was nothing more than a coincidence. But what if it wasn't? Would Niko take such a desperate step to win Makenna's affections? Would he? If what Linda had said was the truth…and Sirri had no doubt about that…Niko was surely capable of causing undue harm. But attempted murder? I don't know that. He didn't. It had implanted a seed, especially after Makenna's confession. A man capable of attacking a woman was capable of anything.
"I don't know if I trust the idea that he got the message, Makenna. I'm not sure of that at all. I can't shake off all the what ifs," he said. "I do know I can't continue working with him. Not after this. I'll do what I must. Go back to the airport or find another firm. Whatever it takes."
His words brought about a dozen or more mixed emotions. Makenna didn't want Sirri anywhere near Niko, especially whenever he discovered they had married. She no longer believed Sirri had been trying to hurt her when he told her of Niko's past. Yet, part of her wanted to believe Niko couldn't be that unstable. Still, she had seen evidence of it first hand. The paintings on his walls. The way he spoke to her in his apartment. His attack. It was unsettling. She didn't want to think about it. None of it. She was afraid she would, no matter how much she did to try and bury it.
"I don't want you to stay there," Makenna said quietly. "I don't want you anywhere near him."
"Nor I you," he said steadily.
She leaned up to place a gentle kiss on his beautiful mouth. "I love you, Sirri," she whispered.
"I love you, too." More than she would ever comprehend.
As Sirri made love to his new wife hundreds and hundreds of miles away, a young woman rose early. Her name was Andrea. For weeks now, Andrea had been suffering from horrid insomnia. After hours of trying, but failing, to find sleep, she dragged her tired ass out of bed. When she glanced at her alarm clock, it was a quarter past five. Sighing heavily, she reached for two things: her shoes and the dog's leash.
Fighting for all she was worth, she finally managed to attach the leash to her squirming Yorkie's collar. It seemed her sweet little dog enjoyed Andrea's insomnia much more than she did.
Andrea lived in a fairly isolated location. Out beyond her backyard was a thicket of trees, acres and acres of undeveloped land. She often took Precious out for walks amongst the fairytale-like woods. Her father, who had given her Precious, often told her she was crazy for walking her dog out here alone. It never bothered Andrea. She loved the woods, as did Precious. She had lived here for years. Nothing had ever bothered her before. Why should she fear it now?
As was usually the case, six-pound Precious tugged at the leash, taking her mistress for a walk. Despite her fatigue, Andrea managed to keep up. She didn't mind. Not really. She loved her little dog as much as any parent could love a child.
Precious was an exuberant critter, pausing only long enough to do her business or to examine some great woodland wonder. By now, Andrea was on automatic and Precious' stops to inspect a fallen branch or a pile of leaves were hardly noticed. On that day, though, it seemed the little dog had stopped for too long a time. Andrea's mind came into focus as she gazed curiously at the tiny ankle biter. She had stopped dead in her tracks. Precious raised her head, sniffed at something in the air, barked tentatively, and then began to tremble. Whimpering, she slunk over to her mistress' feet. Without hesitating, Andrea bent over to lift the quivering fur ball into her arms. Andrea carried Precious toward the spot that had spooked her.
At first, Andrea didn't see anything out of the ordinary. After a short span of time, though, a bizarre object came into view. It was nothing more than a mound of decaying leaves from the prior season. Andrea rolled her eyes, cursed under her breath, and nearly made moves to set Precious down on her all fours. Before she had the chance to do that, she stopped. The decayed vegetation looked odd. Lumpy. Andrea had never seen anything like it in her life. Deciding against putting Precious back down, she slowly moved forward. Seemingly for no reason, her breath began to come in sharp and deeply. Hours later, she would remember that moment, knowing that she shouldn't have taken a step forward, but then, she didn't acknowledge it. Her curiosity was stronger than her common sense.
Andrea drew closer and closer, growing more and more apprehensive. However, she couldn't stop now if she wanted to. Once again, she was being led by curiosity. What was that old saying? Didn't curiosity kill the cat? Shaking her crazy thoughts away, she plodded along. The peculiar shape of the rotten leaves was concealing a secret, a secret that had been leaked. She didn't believe she actually saw what she was looking at. It couldn't be. It just couldn't be.
Holding onto her sweet, sweet little Precious, she kneeled down to take a closer look. Were her eyes betraying her or did she see a finger sticking up within the pile of leaves? It was the most absurd thing she had ever seen in her life. Yet, her heart was racing rapidly within her chest. If there was a body here, a killer might still be lurking close by. Swallowing hard, trying not to scream, she stood up slowly, turned on her heel and ran for her life.
Halfway across town, a silky scream sliced through the thick silence in the room. Linda, ex-fiancée of Niko Milionis, sat straight up in bed. Her heart was larruping uncomfortably in her chest. Since meeting with Sirri Amandurre, she had been assaulted by some of the most horrid dreams that she had had since she was a child. She sincerely wished she had never approached him. Every time she turned, she expected to see Niko awaiting her. Although he had never physically assaulted her, he surely had ruined her emotionally. She knew there was no way he could find her now. Even if he did, what did she expect him to do? He didn't know she had spoken to Sirri. Besides, there was very little he could destroy now. She didn't have anything left. Only her life. Niko didn't want that.
She glanced at her bedside clock, noting that it was almost seven thirty. Knowing there was no use in her going back to bed, she got up and grabbed her robe. She shrugged into it, belting it tightly about her waist. Linda walked around to the end of her bed. The remote to her portable television was in here somewhere, probably on the floor, just waiting to be crushed by her foot. Her eyes spied it before she could destroy it. She wasn't due at work for a few more hours, she couldn't go back to sleep, so she thought she would catch the news. Much much later, she would come to regret her decision.
The instant she turned on the television, she realized that some big, breaking news story had erupted while she was dreaming. The details were sketchy, the story nonsensical, but someone had stumbled upon a dead body in the woods just outside Sun Gust Meadows. It was a sheltered community miles from where Linda called home. It mostly housed the over privileged residents of the county. Hardly anything ever happened there. It was rare to hear of a jaywalker. But now, someone had been murdered and hidden out in the undeveloped property of the Sun Gust Corporation. A young woman. Her throat cruelly slit. Her light put out forever. Although Linda wouldn't realize it for some time, the news of this woman's death bothered her. She wouldn't be able to push the thoughts out of her head for hours.
It was close to noon before Sirri and Makenna managed to get everything packed. They should have checked out two hours ago, but neither had remembered asking for a wake-up call. It was just as well. Makenna hadn't managed to fall asleep until well after dawn. Making love with Sirri should have worn her right out, but it didn't. She had continued to dwell on unsettling thoughts swirling in her head for hours afterward. She didn't want to leave this place, didn't want to return home. Basically, she was a chicken. What she didn't want to face was Niko. Sooner or later, he would hear of her marriage to Sirri, but she honestly didn't want to be the one to tell him. She didn't know why it bothered her so much. There were no ties to Niko. They hadn't been lovers. Only acquaintances. What was she so afraid of? The answers would come. The answers would be the ruination of her life.
Makenna looked up as Sirri exited the bathroom, zippering his shaving kit. Shortly after they made love, he had drifted off, sleeping through the night, sleeping so much better than her. She didn't begrudge him that, but she wondered if he had given any thought to what they had spoken of the night before. It had to be running through his mind, but she didn't want to bring it up. Too much ugliness had attacked them lately. They deserved to be happy, not constantly entrenched in drama. When he felt her eyes on him, he looked up at her and smiled. She returned it, feeling more and more like a hypocrite. She opened her mouth to speak, but was rudely interrupted by the ringing of a cell phone. Sirri's phone.
With a look that could only be described as annoyed, Sirri dug the screaming instrument out of his pants pocket and flipped it open. Makenna watched as he brought it up to his ear and bit out a quiet 'hello.' Neither of them was sure who would be calling him and why. However, once she saw him listening carefully to the caller, something in her died at that moment. It was a repeat of the scene when he discovered his ex-mother in-law had died. What now?
Sirri said little. A word here or there. Not enough to give her an idea of what horrid news awaited them when they returned home. He hung up after five or ten minutes, closed the phone, and stuffed it back into this pocket. She noticed that he had dropped his shaving kit onto the rock hard hotel bed.
He brought his hand up to the nape of his neck, caressing it for a moment before making eye contact with her. "That was Reese," he said cryptically. "Mel's dead."
Without a word, Makenna dropped to the side of the bed. "Jesus," she breathed incredulously. When would the fun end?
"He said she was last seen at some type of sex club," he began. "Apparently the wrong man picked her up." He plopped down on the opposite side of the bed. "I-I was her listed next of kin."
"Did he tell you what happened to her? How she died," she asked after taking a huge gulp of air.
Makenna turned to look at him. His back was to her, his eyes focused on a point on the wall in front of him. "We need to get back. We need to get this settled so we can live our lives in peace."
Peace. What was peace? Makenna would soon ask herself that question many times in the near future.