Chapter Thirty Five
I’m always sure when I fight. I’m always sure that I will give all my strength, all my power to it, to achieve our freedom and any aim that we have. I refuse to have any feelings at the time when I get my knife out; as if once the sharp blade starts to shine in front of me, I lose all of my humanity. No matter how strong my opponents are, and if there’s any hope for me to survive.
But not this time.
From everything that I saw, how many men there are outside, I have only one thing to do. Protect others. Protect Beverly. This time, I won’t be respectful. I won’t be supportive. I won’t be a partner. I could live with her, hating me for the rest of her life; but I can’t live knowing that she’s dead.
When others take all of their weapons to fight, prepare for the cops to get into the room, I grab Avery’s hand, whispering her name. I notice that her body is shaking, as she’s standing further away from all of us, getting supportive looks from Maileen.
“I need to ask you for a favour. Just this one time.”
“What? What do you want me to do?”
I take a look back to see if someone is watching us; but they seem to be too busy while preparing for the fight. Avery’s eyes are all glimmering with confusion, a crystal clear layer of fear. She’s not a fighter, but she doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t make her worse than we are.
“It’s a very low chance for us to win this fight, and this time, I mean it. I need you to convince Beverly to hide with you. Beverly, and Brooklyn.”
“What? You know she won’t-“
“I know you will figure something out. Please, Avery. I need to know at at least you will be alive after this fight.”
Her eyes widen at me, but suddenly, she takes my hand in hers. The way she looks at me, seems to be like she was trying to see a vision through our touch. I take a glance at Maileen; God, that girl could see if I will die tonight. For a moment, I wonder if I should ask her to tell me if I will die.
But knowing your destiny is way more dangerous than fate itself. I don’t want to know that. If I’m dying tonight, it means it has to be like that.
“I will do it. I know what I need to do.”
“Thank you, Avery.”
In an instant, I pull her into a tight hug. For a moment, every muscle in her body gets tense from my unexpected movements; but still, she wraps her arms around my body and drowns in my embrace. Never before I thought that Beverly needs her that much, but now I do. My flair keeps telling me that this will get worse than I thought; and all I need to do is to protect them. All of them.
“I don’t know how how this day will end. But I trust you. I know you will do anything to save her. Them.”
“I will, Kai. Just… try not to die.”
I pull away from Avery and, trying to comfort her, give her a teasing wink and a hellish smile that I usually make before the fight. It doesn’t matter what I feel inside now. That for the first time, I’m not sure if we will make it. I’m not sure what will happen to us. Fear starts to gnaw my insides, but I know I can’t show it to the world.
I’m the leader. I have to show that there’s nothing to be afraid of, even if I feel differently.
“It’s not that easy to kill me.”
“Kai? What are you guys doing? We need to get ready for the fight.”
A soft, quiet voice behind me seems to deliver such pain into my heart that it feels like it’s shrinking itself. I turn around, to face those big, beautiful blue eyes. Concern in them, the one that makes my breathing shallow. All I know is that these next few hours will either pass as a blip in the course of our life, or they will be the final trauma that will break her. Us.
“I don’t want you to fight.”
She takes a step back, her eyes suddenly narrowed; and I already know she’s in her defence position. I didn’t believe it will be easy to ask her for such a thing, but I need her to stay away, do or die.
“What the hell are you talking about, Kai?”
“I want… I need you to hide with Avery.”
“You know it’s not happening.”
Her voice has a dull exhaustion to it, like we had been over the same bitterness too many times before. But there’s no usual heat in her voice, as if her heart beat so steadily; even though the flames in her eyes show the tension growing in her guts. I take a step closer to her, though I can already tell she’s pushing me away.
“Don’t you dare to do this, Kai.”
I know that she’s ready for the fight when I place my palms on her burning cheeks; but not to fight the police, or her stepfather. She’s ready to fight with me. Especially when she places her palms on my chest, trying to push me away, her eyes, unable to stay at one point, and all I can do is to look at her, deep into her eyes; hoping that the softness in my eyes and in my voice will calm her down.
“I need you to stay away. I need you to be safe. This time, please.”
Her shout echoes through the room, making everyone turn around to us. It falls silent, in a way that others are afraid to even breathe. She pulls away from me and steps back, her eyes burn with such rage and fear that I probably haven’t seen in her before. Her face is mottled crimson, her eyes popped, her neck strained. Her words are spat out with the ferocity and rapidity of machine gun fire.
“I’m not leaving any of you alone! You won’t make me!”
“I’m not going to make you do anything, baby. I’m asking you.”
Beverly stands with hard staring eyes that never blink. It feels like a thousand knives, scratching my heart as I see her getting so distant and angry. She looks at me like a stranger, yet worse. Instead of the fragile soul she loved for so long, she sees an enemy.
“I’m begging you.”
“You can’t. No. I won’t. I won’t leave you!”
“I want you to stay away! I need you to stay alive, goddamnit!”
One spark and the shouting began, spit flying from my lips. In that moment of anger, despair, I would say anything, whatever is on the tip of my tongue, whatever would give me the victory that I need. This time, the unselfish type of victory, the one that will make sure my wife is safe. And it doesn’t matter, what happens to me.
“I’m fighting with you!”
“You need to let go.”
Suddenly, Avery’s whisper behind me seems to suck out all of the oxygen from Beverly’s lungs; for a moment, she stops breathing, her eyes widened at Avery as her face starts to soften. The confusing thoughts, about what this could mean start to spin inside my head; but yet it seems like that one sentence miraculously starts to change Beverly’s intentions.
“What did you just say?”
“You have to let go. You know what it means, now.”
“No. This can’t be…”
“What are you talking about?”
For a moment, I feared that she is really gone, then her faint signal came through, like crackling on the old radio. The warmth, the same comforting flame in her look. I feel lost in her eyes, even though she’s not looking at me. The only thing that was there after searching for so long was some kind of communication between the girls; something I’m not capable to understand.
“The dream. I had a dream about this… moment. If I won’t let go, you will die.”
It’s as if her words have knocked every wisp of air from my lungs; my mind slowly taking the information in, trying to remember how to breathe, unable to speak, totally stunned as words bounce around inside my skull. The day I’ve been dreading of just came and made me weaker. That I will lose her. We will lose each other. And in worse scenario, forever.
“Then you have to let go.”
“What? That was not what I meant-”
“We’ll meet again, but you have to let go. I promise, I’ll do everything to keep myself safe.”
I even feel the tears stuck in my throat, but I refuse to show any kind of weakness to any of them. I stare deep into her ocean blue eyes; I suddenly cup her cheek that is slowly turning red, but she doesn’t fight my touch anymore. I smile at her before slowly leaning into her. Our foreheads touch. My other hand is shaking slightly, my mind is repeating the same sentence over and over “I’ll see her again. I’ll see her again.”
As if I was trying to convince myself.
“Please, baby. I promise I will come to you, as soon as I can.”
The first tears start to fall down her cheeks. It’s more than crying, it is the kind of desolate sobbing that comes from a person drained of all hope. The pain that flows from her is as palpable as the frigid fall wind, and soon, the only person that she could see is me; struggling to keep my tears silent, looking up to her watery eyes. I refuse to believe this is the ending, yet it feels like it is.
“You have my word.”
She doesn’t believe in my words, yet she needs to hear them to stay focused, to stay humane. I try to hide the fact that the sound of my heart is beating so loudly I can’t concentrate. It feel like it is going to explode.
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
Finally my lips touched her. We hold it for a few seconds, before our lips begin to move in perfect sync, slowly, cautiously. I exhale through my nose, not wanting to let go; though I know I have to, the cops might be reaching our floor already. My heart aches when her hands cup my cheeks and pull me towards her, taking in this final embrace, this kiss of death. My whole body craves for more, craves for her, but it couldn't last. Not now. But soon.
I can already feel tears stinging in my eyes, and when she pulled away for air, I pull her back in. I’m intoxicated—I’m intoxicating her, but it doesn't matter. Nothing matters after this.
Not until we win this fight.
The kiss was the most painful I’ve ever had; after he pulled away from me, I couldn’t even make myself to look at Kai. It was too hard. Too painful. But at the same time, I understand him. I understand why he wants us to hide, to stay away from the fight with dozens of cops. If the police will catch one of us, they will catch the others, too. Because there’s only one thing that keeps us together, and it’s loyalty. If one of us falls, the rest will go after him.
And there are no excuses.
Only Lexi, Kevin, Aaron and Brent decided to stay, to fight, to help Kai. And I know it doesn’t mean they’re stronger, although it feels that way. It just now means that they have nothing to lose. After all, almost all of them have been together from the start. Even before I met Kai. Before Leonardo. Before everything. One way or another; they will stay together. No matter what.
We don't just have to hide from the men, we have to hide from the dogs, too. Before the cops could reach the floor were we have been, all four of us ran downstairs; though we already heard them running up. Before the sound of their footsteps got too loud, we rushed into one of the hallways of the hotel; which seemed to be empty, like no life was ever found in it. I know it’s too high for us to jump out of the massive balcony in front of us; we still have to hide. Until we will get a chance to escape.
“Do you think we could hide in one of those rooms?”
“For now, maybe. But we will have to change the place soon.”
I stop by the door of the room that has number 541 on it. With all of the strength of my muscles, I lift my leg up and, with a fast kick, break the lock. The doors slam open, but Avery hurries to catch it before it makes a loud sound. An in an instant, Maileen and Avery gets inside.
Before I hear something on the other side of the hallway.
As I turn my head to the right, I notice two cops; running our way, pulling their guns out. I clench my teeth as hard as I can. the way that even my jaw starts to hurt.
“Hide. I got this.”
I quickly reach for the gun inside its case, attached to my leather belt; until suddenly, the gunshot, silenced by the muffler crosses the hallway. It hits the man in the chest, propelling him backward in an awkward cartwheel. The man falls on the floor with no signs of life in his eyes; just a bloody wound in his chest. Before the other man could react, I see him on the ground, too; scarlet liquid flowing out of the rounded wound in his forehead.
I turn around to see Brooklyn’s immobile, cold face, her facial muscles just as loose. There is no anger, no sadness, no joy or resentment. For all the presence she brings to the place, she might as well be a store mannequin. I know I never saw her as emotionless as she is right now. As cruel, killing two men without a blink. But all I know, this is what pain did to her. This is what her father did to her.
“I want to destroy him.”
Finally, her lips start to move and the pupils of her eyes lock with mine. As if she was a different person. As if I didn’t knew my own sister. It gives such anger, that starts to boil inside my guts that I feel the need for vengeance is the only thing that would keep us both sane. And I know what we will do exactly, to give James what he deserves.
“We don’t have to kill him to destroy him, Brooks. I know just the way to ruin his life.”
“But we have to hide those bodies to make sure no one finds us.”
“You’re right. The police knows how we all look, James, probably, made sure we all would get arrested, or killed. We have to stay unnoticed.”
When the last syllable escapes my lips, Avery shuts the door behind her and we rush to hide both of the men. As soon as we reach the dead bodies, I quickly take both of their guns, to keep it for myself, to protect us, if it will be needed. Still thinking about Brooklyn.
With Avery’s help, we grab onto the arms of a man while Brooklyn and Maileen grab another man, using all of our strength to drag them into a small room with cleaning measures inside it. But as soon as we’re done and the men lay down immobile, lifeless, I stop to look at them.
These men are innocent, just following their duty. The duty that brought them death. And just because one heartless father could not let go of a girl that he raised. Indeed, I did nothing. I did nothing to hurt him. I found my happiness, I found my peace. One part of me thinks that maybe… it’s jealousy? Maybe, just because he couldn’t find his inner peace himself.
“Beverly, we need to hide!”
I turn to Avery, who’s hand reaches for mine; but as soon as our skins touch, she pulls her fingers away like I was electrified. Her eyes widen like she was looking at a ghost, or something unreal. I swallow, feeling my breathing getting heavy; that look on her face, means only one thing.
“Avery? You saw a vision, didn’t you?”
The silence, waiting for her to answer, makes my blood as cold as the autumnal air that used to creep through the open windows as the leaves fell. She keeps staring at me, as if there was nothing around us. Reminding me of that dream, seeing her floating in white space, immobile, emotionless.
“I… um… no. It was nothing.”
“You saw something. Don’t lie to me, please.”
“It was nothing, really…”
“What have you seen? That someone will die?”
Her eyes are locked on some invisible spectre, her heavy eyelids seem to be too heavy to blink, her irises too stationary. It’s as if her brain is suffering a massive short circuit and is struggling to compute. Until she shakes her head, and puts an almost invisible smile on her lips.
“I saw nothing, really. We have to hide. Please, Bev.”
Her smile and suddenly soft voice didn’t convince me; though I know she’s right. We have to hide, to make ourselves safe, and, if needed, to be able to save Kai and others. I know he doesn’t want me to fight, and when I start thinking about it - the dream that I had stops me from doing what I want. If I won’t let go… he will die. I’m not sure what it means yet, but I’m pretty sure I was dreaming about this day.
“Fine. We will hide, for now, but nothing will stop me from saving my husband and my friends.”