I sat there on the couch, feeling the whole world as I knew it crashing in on me. Pieces of what I thought I knew shattering and falling to the floor at Jovie Baker’s feet. Every thought that had been dashed by a friend or a therapist was true. I’d been treated like a child in a way. No, Maeve, that’s completely normal. That’s what denial feels like. That was all I’d heard for the past three years since Harvey had been gone and I knew it was more than just fucking denial. I’d allowed myself think I was crazy this whole time. The reality that everyone else had insisted upon me was wrong. There was a new energy of determination surging through my body. I knew I had to find him now. Jovie was speaking to me, trying to explain everything, but his words fell on silent ears as I sank into my own world of anger. Through the noise of the thoughts in my racing mind, I heard him say something about a parallel universe and that we’d have to drive there and follow these very specific instructions, but the whole time, I couldn’t help but feel hurt by him. Jovie had seen first hand how much Harvey’s death had effected me. I trusted him and let him into my world, telling him how I felt. Our whole friendship, he’d kept me constantly in the darkness. He’d seen me absolutely broken over Harvey. I could tell he was feeling guilty by the way he avoided my gaze as he spoke and though a part of me felt bad for him, another part of me wanted to never speak to him again.
“I’m sorry, Maeve. I would have told you, but it was dangerous- it still is,” I finally heard his words through the radio static of emotion in my head.
“You’re not fucking with me, are you?” I snapped, my tone cutting through the space between us.
“No... I wish I was. I’m sorry. I know it’s a lot to take in and I get it if you don’t believe me.”
I thought over everything for a moment.
“You knew this whole time then?” my words fell out of my mouth like icicles, laced with a frigidity Jovie had never heard from me before.
“I- I didn’t want to- I wasn’t supposed to,” he finally brought his head up to look me in the eyes with a exasperated sigh. “Yes. Yeah, I did.”
Without speaking a word, I stood slowly from the couch and turned toward my room.
“Maeve, please-” Jovie started after me. I spun around on my heel, stopping him in his tracks. I was angry right now but I didn’t want to blow up on him and say something I would regret. I needed a moment to myself or else I’d just scream at him.
“I’m taking a shower and getting my things. I’ll be ready to leave in the hour,” I spoke to him like he was a stranger.
He slowly sat back down on the couch, looking like he’d just been slapped in the face. I turned back around, making my way to the bathroom before I lost it in front of him. I slammed the door behind me and threw my clothes to the floor before stepping into the steaming shower. This was the moment where I could turn back from what we were about to do. Any sane person would have already. I felt the water droplets roll down my skin and mix in with angry, silent tears, running my hands through my wet hair. I didn’t even question Jovie’s story. That’s how desperate I was. I’d been feeling this way for so long and, when it came down to it, I trusted Jovie even though he’d basically been lying to me for the past few months. He had no reason to harm me or lie to me anymore though. Jovie seemed like one of the more pragmatic people I’d ever met, so it was almost surprising to me that he believed this. I guess it didn’t matter. All I knew was that I’d do whatever it took to get to Harvey again. I let the water rush over me thinking of his voice. I tried not to get my hopes up. I had only been disappointed when it came to the idea of seeing him again and a part of me felt like I was wrong for doing this. Like I was cheating someone. Isn’t death supposed to be final? Would he be the Harvey Davis I knew? Jovie had mentioned that the place changed people and thinking of that sent a shiver down my spine. Did he even die in the first place? I had a million questions to ask Jovie when we got in the car.
I finished up my shower, stepping out and wrapping a towel around my body. The slippery cold tile against my feet turned into soft carpet as I made my way into my bedroom. I pulled out my travel bag and stood in front of my closet, unsure as to what one brings on a trip to a parallel universe. I threw on a black sweatshirt and jeans before stepping back into the living room to see Jovie in the same position as before staring at the floor. I cleared my throat and his attention quickly found me.
“What do I bring?” I asked quietly. He shifted in his seat before answering.
“Just bring a few changes of clothes. Soap, deodorant and a toothbrush. Whatever you’d normally take on a trip. Maybe a blanket,” he suggested.
“Won’t we need food?”
“It’s kind of hard to explain,but you won’t necessarily be hungry. I’d bring a few cans in case, but otherwise, no,” he said.
I turned my back to him again and began to throw everything from the apartment into my bag. With a swift pull of the zipper, I was ready. He sat on the edge of the couch in an uncomfortably polite manner with his hands folded together and lip pulled between his teeth. His eyes nervously darted up to meet mine when I finally walked back over to him.
“We need to go by my place so I can grab some things,” he stated before standing up slowly.
“That’s fine,” I responded, turning my back to him and not looking back.
I locked my door behind me, the uneasy feeling of not knowing when I was coming back began to sink in. I hadn’t asked many questions of Jovie and honestly, I was in shock. I didn’t really know what to ask. We walked back to his apartment, the same direction we came from last night, and we didn’t speak a word to each other. To some degree, I felt bad for giving him the cold shoulder, but to another, he’d kept the fact that Harvey was still alive from me. And I hated him for it. I couldn’t help it. The walk to his apartment seemed longer than usual, the awkwardness between us stretching between blocks and street lamps so obviously passersby seemed have noticed.
I waited downstairs in front of Jovie’s apartment while he got his things together, leaning against a brick wall and looking down at my phone. My thumbs guided themselves over to my voicemails again as I brought the speaker up to my ear to listen to Harvey’s voice again. I was going to see him again. Tears formed in the corners of my eyes but for once it wasn’t the loss of him that was making me cry. I smiled to myself and shoved my phone in my pocket again as Jovie came through the swinging doors next to me with a duffel bag in his hands and a backpack slung across his shoulders. He seemed more on edge than before, continuously looking over his shoulder. I didn’t ask any questions, but followed him to his car, a black SUV, sitting in the middle of an almost empty parking garage. He unlocked the doors and we put all of our belongings in the trunk when we began to hear the echo of footsteps. I didn’t think anything of it at first, but Jovie whipped around a little too quickly.
“Baker,” a male voice called. I found myself slowly turning around to see an tall, muscular guy, around the same age as Jovie, with long blonde hair touching his shoulders and clenched fists swaying next to his side. The way he was walking towards us made me nervous.
“Get in the car,” Jovie said under his breath.
“I said get in the car,” his voice lowered, the request turning into a command that I didn’t question.
I hurriedly jumped into the driver’s seat, shutting the door behind me. I watched Jovie and the blonde guy talk to each other in the rearview mirror, but I could only make out a few words between their conversation. I heard Jovie call the man “Ellis” when he approached and when he began to talk to Jovie, he didn’t seem like he was angry at him, but rather trying to tell him something urgent. Ellis towered over Jovie as he spoke and it was like he couldn’t get his words out fast enough. Whatever he was saying must have been important because Jovie kept his focus on the ground, nodding every once in a while with a solemn face. Out of nowhere, I heard a crash come from somewhere else in the parking deck, the sound ringing against the concrete walls. I turned back to get a better look at Jovie and his blonde friend, but saw Jovie running back to the car with Ellis no where in sight. He snatched the passenger door open.
“Go,” he ordered. It took me a minute to process everything that’s just happened in only the last few minutes. What was that sound? Where did Ellis go? What was he trying to tell him? “Maeve, go! Now!”
Jovie was shouting at me as I rapidly pulled the car into reverse before shooting around the corner of the parking deck. I flew over speed bumps like they didn’t exist as Jovie held onto the safety handle above, looking like he was going to be sick. We sped out of the covered deck and onto the open road into busy midday traffic. Jovie looked over his shoulder and up and down the streets as we sped out of the inner city. He seemed to relax as we left the tall buildings of London behind us and I finally let myself ask him a question.
“What the hell was all of that about?” I asked, frustrated about being kept in the dark. I didn’t even know what we were running from.
Jovie took a deep breath before looking me in the eyes for the first time since this morning.
“They know we’re coming.”