Before I could realize, he’s standing just in front of me, stealing my breath and the heat from my skin. Suddenly my defences are just paper, paper that is being soaked by the rapidly falling briny drops. Before I can draw in the air my body needs I feel my body melting, my feet losing control when I start to stand up from the grass; still in shock that the man in front of me is Brent.
With every step closer to him I can examine every inch of his face; something inside me tells me it’s not him, or maybe I don’t want it to be him. Because after thirteen years, I don’t know what to do. What to say. We’re not the same people anymore, and we will never be the same.
I stop myself just inches from him, examining his face. A tall man, big, muscular, strong. More ink than skin, all of his body is tattooed with different drawings, like his flesh was a canva. The warm wind plays with his long, curly hair. The beard framing his face; a face of a man, not a teenager boy. There’s a real man in front of me; a man that I don’t know. But not those eyes, not those green eyes, that thirteen years didn’t manage to change.
Those green eyes would make the grass on a professional baseball field get lighter. The pitches mound are pierced with the pupil and the bases and the dirt, scattered around all throughout. The eyes I fell in love with, just like I remember. Probably the only thing that hadn’t changed in him.
Because he’s bad now. A man that does bad things, who kills other people. I saw him doing that back in Caden’s place. He’s not a detective, not like he wanted to be. He’s a criminal, just like Caden is.
But why it doesn’t bother me at all?
My hand carefully touches his face, sliding my fingers down his beard; Brent keeps looking at me, like he wasn’t able to believe I’m actually here. With my fingers on his cheek I look at him, I want him to see that there is no judgement in my eyes. My face buckles and tears roll unchecked, washing a path to my chin. That’s him. I can’t believe that’s him.
Brent carefully lifts his hand forward, like he was afraid to touch me. But as soon as his fingers dig into my hair, sliding down to my spine, I feel both of his hands on my body. His palms stroking my hair. From top to bottom, over and over again; one touch isn’t enough for him to realize who he’s touching. His eyes examining my face, every inch of it, like it was the last time he’s able to look at me. The warmth fills up my chest, though the tears keep falling. I’ve never felt so vulnerable.
“Avery. Oh my God, Avery...”
How the ground under us is disappeared I’ll never understand; but one moment we are apart and the next we are melted into a single being. The warmth of his body meets my cold skin, giving me hope like he always did before the kidnap. One of his hands clasps around my lower back, the other strokes my hair. With each soft touch more tears fall, neither of us wipe away. After so many years we have the chance to make new memories and wasting time isn’t on the agenda.
I got him back. And I’ll never anyone take him from me again.
“I’m so sorry Avery, I’m so terribly sorry...”
He keeps wrapping his hands on me, pulling me closer with every touch as if there was a chance I could disappear. And I feel nothing but happiness, nothing but warmth in my stomach that I didn’t feel for thirteen years. It feels the same, just the same like it felt back in Miami, where we met, where we fell in love. I know it will take time to rebuild our relationship, but none of us needs it now. All we needed was this moment, when we finally can be together again.
“Don’t apologize. You came back. That’s all that matters.”
And actually, it doesn’t matter that it took him thirteen years to come back. Thirteen years to find me. No one else was even trying to find me; after a year I went missing, I was dead to everyone. Even to my stepparents. They didn’t even bother to look for me, atleast for my body to bury me. I was dead, and no one tried to look for truth. Except Brent, who dedicated his life to find me.
Being in Brent’s embrace, I hear someone coughing behind him; coughing on purpose to catch our attention. I open my eyes and look at the person, standing by the black Range Rover; all soaked in blood, as tattooed as Brent is, the one who was fighting with knives back in Caden’s place.
“I’m sorry to be the one to ruin the moment... but we really need to get some medical help for Kevin and Lexi.”
“Kai is right. We have to hurry.”
And now I see it. I see the boy who was Brent’s best friend, who was always by his side in high school. I remember him, and I remember his little brother Kevin. Of course they’re still friends. There was no doubt that they will stay friends forever.
“It’s nice to have you back, Avery.”
He puts a genuine smile on his face when I notice Beverly, standing next to him and holding his hand in hers. I notice a beautiful diamond ring on her finger. Kai and a girl I was seeing in my dreams are engaged. One part of me wants to think it’s just a coincidence, that she was only a key for Brent to find me... but I keep wondering if there’s something more.
With my mind, there’s always something more.
“But what about the cars we took? They can track us down if they find these cars.”
“It’s not a big problem, baby.”
Kai pulls out a small, oval thing out of his bag. I have never seen a hand grenade before, though I spent thirteen years with nuclear weapon dealer. It sat in Kai’s palm like a little dull green pineapple. But this was no fruit, it was deadly if that pin got pulled.
“Let’s go, Avery.”
I feel the sparks in my finger tips when Brent takes my hand; it’s not a vision that I had all those years, but that’s love, I feel it’s going to be as legendary as it was, for the second time, that just one touch that he gave me again is more addictive than any drug known to man. We are no longer children, but we still the centre of the universe to each other, together we collide into a perfect flame, separate and one.
“I’m here with you, and I will never leave you again.”
Two days have passed. Two stressful, fearful days after we got Avery back. I don’t think we ever felt this bad; maybe only when we thought Brent is dead. Kevin had to get a surgery, in other case, we would’ve lost him. But gladly, one of Brent’s friends, who happens to be a surgeon, helped us out and didn’t even asked questions about what happened. We were so lucky that over the years he made a few friends while he was looking for Avery, and only because of him, Kevin is still alive.
Fortunately, Lexi’s injury wasn’t that bad, and she got the bullet out of her leg; though she’s still not able to walk normally. Meanwhile Kevin has to stay in bed all the time with a constant care, and Brooklyn never leaves his side. It will be a long process of healing.
But most importantly, we’re all alive.
Everyone needed time to get used to changes, to new girls that we need to protect. Avery, who had to catch up with Brent and tell him everything that happened. And Maileen, who was really silent all this time, but Avery told us she’s good. She’s a friend. A person that we should let in and keep safe, just like we protect each other.
But we still need some answers. About the Phoenix. About Avery. About our dreams. And what we should do next.
“It’s been two days since we got you back, Caden already knows you’re missing and we blew up his place. What move he’s going to make next?”
“There’s nothing more frightening than this question, Beverly.” We gathered all together in Kevin’s hotel room, not wanting to leave anyone behind. We’re all in this together, so every one of us has to know what to expect next. What to do next. “We would be fools if we expected that Yellow Eye won’t find us. Don’t think that was his only place to hide or that you killed all of his men, he’ll come back for me, trust me.”
“So we have to leave, that’s it.”
“I don’t think we can since neither Lexi or Kevin can walk right now.”
“But why you? Or... Maileen?”
Avery takes a look at Maileen, sitting right next to her. I can see it in her eyes; she’s shy, afraid, maybe she’s not used to be in a big company like ours, after all, she doesn’t know any of us. But Avery tries to comfort her, taking her hand and smiling at her.
“Maileen is special. She has an ability to see a person’s death just by a touch, and also, she’s able to control her mind. Not like me.”
“Wait a second. I touched you, Maileen. Have you...” I swallow, afraid to hear an answer.
“No. It doesn’t always work that way, especially when other feelings come in the way. Fear. Stress.”
Her eyes lock on me and a genuine smile plays in her lips, her voice is calm, comforting. But I can’t imagine what this girl had been through. Seeing every person’s death, how your loved ones will die. Imagining the pain, knowing that one day it will become true. Even a thought about it is heartbreaking, not talking about things you must feel.
“Anyway, you probably all know he was keeping me to find the Phoenix.”
“And why he didn’t? He had plenty of time.”
“Because I’m not the only component to find it.”
The room falls silent when everyone start to look at each other; many of us don’t believe in that legend, that the treasure is actually hidden somewhere, that Caden needs the Phoenix to find it. I imagined lots of things that could be that Phoenix; statues, maps, hidden places... but nothing actually seems real. Not until we see it.
“What else he needs?”
“That’s what he’s trying to figure out.”
“He doesn’t know either?”
“He doesn’t, but someone else does. Daryl, a man that Caden is trying to have a deal with has something that will tell him what piece is missing, and how to find the Phoenix.”
“Um... What is it?”
“An original script.”
“You mean an original, thousands of years old script from the people that hid that treasure?” Kai crosses his arms by his chest, carefully listening to Avery.
I know tensing against the shaking of my limbs is useless but I do it instinctively, trying to suppress for a few more moments what I know I cannot. I need to drink in the silence to counteract the news. I never expected this to happen. I never thought that will be real.
What else shocking will happen in my life?
"Then we have our answer what to do next."
"What do you mean?"
"We have to get that script and destroy it before Caden gets it."
Brent takes only a glance at Kai and it seems like they had a full mute conversation about a plan they have ready next; Kai’s face lights up with a smile and he turns to me. His eyes are bright, big; they always are in moments like this, when he knows there will be more action.
"And how you will do that? He’s dangerous."
"I’m dangerous, too. And I have my own ways to get what I want."