Forgiven

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The Mysterious Visitor

Chapter 29:

A loud crashing sound resonated through her apartment. It jolted her out of her deep slumber and sent her heart racing. No other sound followed. She sat straight and tried to search for a plausible explanation that could help explain the sound in her state of alarm. Only one cause came to mind.

Someone broke in!

Michaela carefully stood up and grabbed the bat she had been keeping next to her bed for cases like these. She could handle an intruder with ease. She was more than capable of doing that. That was what she repeatedly told herself to stay calm. Panic was not going to help her if an intruder had indeed broken in. She could forget everything she learned and end up becoming an easy prey for whoever came for her.

Michaela carefully walked into her living room, and kept her eyes peeled for any hostile sign in her surroundings. She did not have to look very hard. She found the source immediately. He was slumped against the wall with a knife in his hands.

The stranger was clad in darkness from head to toe. His face was not masked, but the dark grey hoodie he wore overshadowed his features. She could see nothing underneath that hood save for an ominous trace of a frown, or was it a grimace? She could not tell because the gigantic windows of her living room stood behind him. Whatever light that came from the street through them cast everything in a faint light except him. They shrouded him in shadows and made his presence more ominous and threatening than it already was. Her face must have betrayed how alarmed she was because he thought to reassure her immediately.

“I’m not here to hurt you.” The stranger said in a quivering voice even though he held a knife towards her.

His feeble attempt to reassure her did little to get her out of her state of alarm. Her hold tightened around the bat as she kept her eyes fixed on whatever she could trace underneath that hood. Her mind began to analyze the scene in front of her. There was something familiar about it that she could not quite pin. She eyed him cautiously in an attempt to find out what it was. It was then that she noticed the state that he was in. He was breathing with great difficulty. The hand that was holding the knife towards her trembled. He was trying to steady it by tightening his grip around the knife, but he was losing control quite fast. His left hand was pressed against his right side. There were faint traces of a tremor in it too. Something told her then to eye the floor. She realized immediately when she did why he was slumped against the wall and why he was breathing with great difficult. He was bleeding from whatever wound he sustained to his side.

The stranger spoke again when he saw her eyes fixed on the drops of blood on the floor. “Bandages…gauze…anything you have.” He said shakily.

His voice broke and quivered as he delivered his plea. Michaela could tell that he was in great pain. That was not the only thing her brain registered, however. His voice sounded eerily familiar to her ears. She must have met him before, and judging by the fact that he had sought her out in his state of need, he knew her as well.

Michaela’s grip around the bat loosened against her better judgement. That voice! There was nothing malicious about it. Her mind could not link it to anyone she knew, but she was sure she heard it before.

“Do I know you?” She finally decided to ask.

The stranger did not answer her. He stood there in his feeble state and stared back at her. His eyes suddenly sparked from underneath that hood. They became the only thing she could see. That shade of grey was reminiscent of somebody else’s eyes. It bothered her. It tormented her. It magnified the guilt she held for years.

The faint sound of ringing filled the room. It echoed everywhere as she repeated her question to the stranger. The ringing grew in intensity. It became louder and louder. The stranger’s lips moved. He was trying to say something, but she could not hear him over the abominable noise. She held her hands to her ears and tried to read the stranger’s lips. He was still trying to mouth something to her. Still, she could not exactly get what he was trying to say. Suddenly, the knife he was holding fell to the floor. He slumped down soon afterwards.

The abominable echo stopped. All that remained was the pure sound of ringing as she eyed the unconscious stranger on her floor. She approached him carefully and pulled the hoodie away from his face.

She was not prepared for what she saw.

It was a face darkened, scorched and burned beyond recognition. Only the eyes remained intact and open. They followed her as she stumbled backward in fear. Darkness began to swallow her surroundings. Everything became undefined and lost in it. The only thing that remained luminous in the dark was a pair of eyes with the purest shade of sparkling grey that she had ever seen.


Michaela woke up with a start. She eyed her surroundings in confusion and realized that she was in her bedroom. Her alarm was ringing loudly. She must have forgotten to disable it because she did not have to attend to any chores or start another shift this early in the morning. She reached for her phone and turned her alarm off before she laid down on her bed again. The splitting headache that finally made itself noticeable forced her to lay down for longer than she intended.

The redhead shut her eyes to keep the rays of sunshine that invaded her room through the window from further aggravating her condition. This got her mind to wander to the dream that jolted her awake this early in the morning. It was not out of the ordinary for her to experience such strange dreams, especially after a night of drinking too much. Still, it was a first for her to see those haunting grey eyes in her sleep. It must be because she had been thinking about them quite a lot lately.

Michaela slowly sat up, held her head in her hand and tried to remember the events that led to her current sorry state, but the splitting headache kept her from searching her memory for any clues. She finally decided to reach for her phone again hoping that there would be something there that would help her remember what happened without having to go through the painful process of thinking. There was a text message from Lesly that requested that she call or text back the moment she woke up so Lesly would make sure that she was okay. Michaela hastily typed a text informing her friend that she was up and that she would call her later. Then she slowly stood up and made her way unsteadily towards the bathroom. Once there, she turned the shower on and waited for the water to warm up while she brushed her teeth. Then she stepped into the shower and allowed the water to slowly revive her.

When Michaela was done, she slipped into a plain tank top and a pair of yoga pants. Then she slowly dried her long red locks thinking all the while of the kind of unimportant chores she could scratch off her list for today. Her train of thoughts was interrupted when a sweet scent coming from her kitchen began rousing her senses back to life. At first, she thought she was imagining it, but then her eyes grew large when she realized what it meant. A certain someone must have paid her a visit. Michaela hastily turned the blow-dryer off and put it aside. Then she slowly walked out of her bedroom to see if she was right.

Her suspicions were confirmed. It was him.

“The hell are you doing here?” She said with a murderous look on her face.

“Good morning to you, too, Mike.” Answered the cheerful dark-haired stranger in her kitchen.

“How many times did I tell you not to call me that?” She would have kicked him if she was not hungover.

“You must have had quite a night.”

“Got to hell.” She said as she grabbed a box of tissues and hurled it at him. To her disappointment, he caught it with ease.

Michaela walked towards the kitchen and sat on the stool. The sudden motion made her head pound. She groaned in pain and held her head in her hands. The stranger handed her a warm cup of coffee and tried to get her to drink it. “Here, this should wake you up.”

She eyed the cup in front of her while contemplating whether she should accept the stranger’s gesture. It was obvious what he was trying to do, and she did not want to encourage him. However, as much as she wanted to make a statement, the sweet aromatic scent made it difficult to resist the warm drink, especially since she needed it so desperately in her hungover state.

Michaela eventually held the cup and took a sip of the steaming drink before she said, “I swear the only positive thing about your unannounced obnoxious visits is the coffee you make.”

“Glad to know this trick is still working.” The stranger said cheerfully.

She shot him a dirty look before she took another sip of coffee. “I thought I told you not to contact me or show your face here ever again.”

“I kept my word. I stayed away.” The stranger tried to explain. “You dragged me back when you left me that voice message begging me to come see you.”

She knew exactly what he was talking about. That night when Lesly was attacked, she was not thinking straight. She was worried sick, and she needed to talk to someone about what happened. He was the only person she could think of. It was not her best moment. She was crying when she left him that message. She cried again when he came to see her. She found him in her apartment late at night when she came to get a change of clothes while Lesly was in the hospital. He tried to comfort her, but as usual, she ended up lashing out at him.

“Why are you here?” Michaela finally decided to ask after a moment of silence.

“How’s Lesly?” He inquired evasively.

She gave him another sharp look as she held the warm cup in her hand. Then she gently placed it down and responded dryly. “Send her another one of your emails to find out.”

“Michaela…”

“She’s fine.” The redhead replied curtly. “Have you had any luck finding out who attacked her?”

“Unfortunately, no. I’m still looking.”

“She thinks the culprit is looking for you.”

“It’s possible.”

“It’s not possible.” Michaela stated emphatically. “It’s definite.”

The stranger took a moment to phrase his response carefully knowing full well that it would enrage her. He knew where the conversation was going, and he desperately wanted to avoid fighting with her for the millionth time. There was no way around it, however.

“Michaela,” he began cautiously. “I assure you I haven’t done anything that would warrant suspicion. I’m always careful not to drag Lesly into anything that would piss the major players off.”

“You need to stop with the emails entirely!” The redhead instructed firmly while emphasizing every word.

“I can’t. I’d rather direct her into situations where I could monitor her rather than let her roam free. She won’t quit. You know her better than I do.”

Michaela wanted to get into the reasons behind Lesly’s suicidal behavior, but doing so would bring the blaming game back on again and the two would end up fighting before she got some real answers out of him. In an effort to avoid that sensitive matter entirely, she tried to redirect their discussion. Perhaps it was better to focus on the reasons why the culprit was after Lesly.

“You said you were careful. You said that it was possible that you might not be the reason he was after her. You should know, however, that he asked her about the leak during the Davis scandal. You leaked that video.”

“Yes, I had to back then, but I haven’t leaked anything else sense. I was careful.”

“What about Stevenson?” Michaela inquired challengingly.

“It wasn’t me.” The stranger stated calmly.

Michaela examined his face for a minute. She could tell that he was telling the truth. This meant that her initial conclusion was wrong.

“So it was Alec?” She announced after a moment of contemplation. “I thought that Lesly was wrong in concluding that it was Alec and that it was in fact you.”

“This could actually be the reason behind the assault.” The stranger explained.

“What do you mean?”

“The culprit must have thought it was me and went to her for answers.”

Michaela paused to think about what he just said. His answer made perfect sense. It explained why her friend was targeted now after five years.

“Dear God that woman could never catch a break.” The redhead muttered almost absentmindedly.

“Did that Alec person find anything? What does he want with her anyways?”

Michaela eyed the stranger curiously. She could see the frown that was replacing his cheerful disposition. It was obvious that he disliked Alec for more than one reason. Michaela fought hard to keep a wry smile from tugging at her lips.

“He didn’t.” She began explaining with feigned innocence. “He’s still investigating. As for what he wants with Lesly, I’m sure you’re familiar with the basic biologically rooted propensities that ensure the survival of the species.”

“Michaela don’t talk about Lesly like that.” He answered with a grimace.

“Come on, you’re a grown man. Surely you can make peace with the fact that she can shack up with whoever she wants, make out with whoever she wants and have steamy hot…”

“I beg you not to finish that sentence.”

“Would a medical explanation of the process make it less awkward?” She continued with the same fake innocent expression of hers.

“Michaela…” He pleaded.

“She’s living with him. What do you expect?” Michaela asked nonchalantly.

The stranger was still not comfortable discussing these issues with her. He knew Michaela and knew how dirty her mind was. She had to be discouraged at all costs before she made things more awkward.

“Do you two trust him?” He asked in a serious tone.

“He is definitely someone she can rely on, more so than you. That’s for sure.” Michaela answered him directly.

“You know I’m trying my best here.”

“I don’t want to hear your excuses right now. I have a splitting headache that I could barely tolerate. Just say what you came her to say and leave.”

“It’s gonna take a while.” The dark-haired man explained with an apologetic smile.

“What do you mean?” Michaela asked suspiciously.

The stranger lifted his shirt and showed her the wound he sustained right underneath the left side of his ribcage. It was not entirely obvious to Michaela what happened because the wound was covered with a bandage, but she knew it was serious enough to have him risk coming to her apartment during the day. She shot him a fierce look that showed him how angry she was that he got himself in trouble again. He could see that she was barely keeping a tirade of curses from escaping her mouth. This caused him to apologize without being prompted.

“I’m sorry. You told me to be careful, but…”

She stood up. Her intense glare never left his eyes. Then she walked towards her bedroom.

“Follow me.” She instructed in a tone that barely masked her anger.

The dark-haired man obediently went after her. He knew the drill. This was not the first time he was injured and came to her for help. In fact, it was because of a serious injury he sustained more than two years ago that he exposed himself to her. He still remembered the events of that night quite vividly. He broke into her apartment after he exhausted all his options. He worried that she would be terrified if she saw a masked stranger in her apartment. A that moment, however, she was his only hope that he would survive his predicament. Michaela was terrified at first. It was not long, however, before she recognized his voice and tried her hardest to keep him alive. He would have been dead if it had not been for her.

The dark-haired man followed Michaela into her room and sat down on her bed after she instructed him to do so. His grey eyes watched her as she fetched the medical kit that she kept around specifically for him. She sat in front of him next, slid her hands into some rubber gloves and asked him to lift his shirt. He did as instructed and felt her removing the flimsy bandage he had placed over his wound. Her frown intensified. It told him that she did not like what she was seeing.

“When did this happen?” She asked before she dipped a cotton ball in antiseptic solution.

“Last night.” He answered with a groan when she began disinfecting his wound.

“Knife?”

“Yes.”

“You’re lucky it’s not so deep. You did a horrible job with the stitches.”

“I thought I did well.” He said jokingly.

“I’m gonna have to remove them and stitch you up again.”

His grey eyes watched her as she began removing the horrible stitches he placed. He could tell from the expression on her face that she was still mad.

“Are you gonna tell me what happened?” She asked in a serious tone.

“It’s better if you don’t know.”

No response came from her, possibly because she did not wish to lose her temper one more time and lecture him about the dangerous situation he got himself roped into. His eyes examined her in silence. Her frown was slowly being replaced by a more focused look. A smile began tugging at the corners of his mouth when he recalled her reaction upon finding out who he was that night when he was seriously injured. She was furious, not only because he severed all contact with her for years, but also because he got her to swear not to reveal his secret to anyone. He knew that he had put her in a difficult position. He knew that she was not comfortable lying to the people around her about him. It was never his intention to drag her into his mess. It was a moment of desperation that pushed him to involve her. He hated doing that to her, but a part of him was relieved that he finally had someone he could talk to.

He winced when he felt a sudden sharp pain interrupting his thoughts. She whispered an apology and told him that it was inevitable because of how inflamed the area was. His eyes went back to examine her. They stared in admiration at her brown eyes, her long eyelashes, the freckles that covered the bridge of her nose before they settled on her soft lips. She really was beautiful. She even looked more beautiful with her soft red curls down and in disarray rather than tied back.

“You know I had a crush on you back then.” He said in an attempt to break the silence.

“I know. Lesly told me.” She replied. Her eyes were still focused on her task.

“When?”

“When she and I were in college.”

“You never said anything.”

“There was nothing to say. You were still in high school. I’m four years older than you, remember?”

Michaela finished stitching him up and brought a bandage to cover his wound. When she was done, she lifted her head to let him know that she was done, but before she could let any word out, his mouth covered hers. It wasn’t a simple kiss. He certainly lingered. However, it wasn’t a deep kiss either. When he pulled back, he had a proud look on his face. Her expression was unreadable as she stared at him. He wanted to ask her what she was thinking but before he did, she smacked the side of his head.

“What was that for?” He asked with a chuckle.

“You know what.” She answered before she packed the medical kit and took it aside.

His eyes followed her as she stood up to stash the kit away. Her back was turned to him when he inquired casually. “Are you seeing someone now?”

“I am.”

“What’s his name and what does he do?”

“None of your business.” She answered dryly before she turned around. She walked back towards him and folded her arms over her chest. “You should be careful. What if I wasn’t home to stitch you up?”

“I can manage. You taught me how to do it.” He tried to assure her.

“We lost you once. I can’t bear the thought of losing you again.”

The atmosphere got intense in an instant. He knew what she was going to say next and knew that he had to leave before she said it. With that thought in mind, the dark-haired man stood up, adjusted his shirt and tried to leave the room. Michaela walked behind him fully intending on getting her point across.

“You have to talk to Lesly. I can’t deal with the guilt anymore.”

The stranger picked the black backpack that he threw next to the couch when he broke in, unzipped it and pulled a folded hoodie from it as he spoke to the persistent redhead.

“Michaela, we discussed this before. Lesly cannot know about me.”

“She can’t completely move on because she thinks you’re dead.” She explained in frustration.

“It’s too risky.” He stated calmly as he zipped his hoodie up. “I’ll let her know once I get the problem sorted.”

“It’s been seven years for God’s sake!”

“I’m closer today than I’ve been before. Trust me.”

“Christopher,” she said pleadingly.

He tried to reason with her, but past experiences told him that it was futile. The best thing he could do at the moment was to disappear, cut contact again and relieve her of the moral dilemma he drew her into. If she had no idea where he was, what he was doing or whether he was even alive, then she would not have to tell Lesly anything. There was no way she would say anything to his sister about him if she was not sure that he was okay. Aside from the fact that she swore on her mother’s grave not to tell a living soul about him that day when she saved him, there was no way that she would get Lesly’s hopes up that he was indeed alive unless she held on to him. His frequent disappearance, as cruel as it was to her, was his only means of insuring that his sister remained in the dark.

Christopher pulled the hoodie over his head and placed his allergy mask on. Then he stared at her and tried to muster the courage to apologize. “I’m sorry I put you in this position. I’ll keep my word and never show up again.”

Michaela stared back at him angrily, but she was sure he knew her anger was her only way to cover up how she really felt at the moment. As much as she wanted him to stay in contact with her so she could make sure he was okay, she hated lying to her friend about him. His grey eyes reminded her of Lesly’s. The two siblings did not look alike, but their eyes were the only feature they had in common. Every single time she stared into them, she was reminded of how much of a terrible friend she was for keeping something this major from her.

“Take care.” Christopher said before he walked out of her life once more.

She should be used to this by now, but it was not the sort of experience one could get used to.

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