A Vanishing Act
It had been a week since Seven was found dead and life continued as it always did. Ciaran sat on the barstool staring into a corner where Devin was slung across a man's lap, doped to numbness, and smiling like always as he got fucked. He snorted and looked away. Tapping his fingers against his brandy glass he propped his chin up on his hand, gazing at nothing.
"Tired?" Cait asked him coming up to the counter.
"Shouldn't I be asking you that?" he replied as he leaned in next to her, giving a knowing glance toward Devin.
She shrugged. "We have enough for the night."
Ciaran nodded and took a sip from his drink. He then reached out and combed his fingers through her hair, giving her an empty smile. "Crazy fucked up kids."
"Yeah. So what else is new?"
He removed his hand. "Nothing." Ciaran brought his glass to his lips and downed it in one swallow. He then left without another word, knowing that it would be the last he'd see of the two.
It was snowing outside; a light fall that melted on his bare arms and tangled in his hair. The walk to his home apartment was forty-five minutes away. Ciaran made the journey in silence, dreading already the fact that he still had a thesis to write up and present. But after that he would be free of his family. He wouldn't need to care.
Large auditorium with hundreds of seats filled by eager, yet judgemental faces. They were there to listen to him. To hear some prodigal speech.
'What a ripoff..'
Ciaran spoke with a monotone voice. He had forgotten himself there speaking about theorems and research. He blinked a few times, trying to recall what he was actually explaining to the audience.
Reaching for the glass of water he had prepared, Ciaran let his eyes rest on the front row seats, before turning to glance casually at the screen which had statistics and calculations backing up his explanations.
'Right, and why should I care to continue...' he almost mused out loud as he placed the glass back. His mind was buzzing like a beehive. It felt irrelevant to him if he were to continue or not. Taking a deep breath he then quickly glanced to his notes again and continued with renewed vigor.
Allowing himself finish the spectacular speech, Ciaran courtly bowed to the audience before he walked off stage while there were several people applauding.
He didn't care. He wanted out.
It was getting out of hand. His thoughts raced, while he navigated past the people. He heard his mother call after him. Or maybe it was one of the girls who still thought he was dating them. The formal wear chafing his neck and wrists irritably. He wanted nothing more than to graduate from the academy and move on.
What he didn't notice was that among the audience was the Uswian man. He had been observing Ciaran, intrigued by the change of attitude from the streets to here.
"The man with many faces, aren't you…"
Half a year later, a knock came around noon.
Ciaran made a face and pulled the pillow over his head. "You answer it," he grumbled to Silja who had been sharing the apartment with him for some weeks.
Crawling over him she pulled a tee-shirt on and padded barefoot down the short hall to the door. She opened it and stared at the elegantly dressed man standing before her. He eyed her without contempt, the smile on his face pasted on. "Is 'Raythe' here?" he asked her.
"Who's asking?" she wanted to know.
"I can give him what he wants," was her answer.
For a moment she didn't move. Then she pulled the door open wider and gestured for him to come inside. "He's in the bedroom. I'll get him for you," she said softly.
The stranger headed into their tiny living room while Silja returned to the bedroom. Shaking Ciaran out from under the pillow she met his glare with a dispassionate gaze. "Get dressed."
"That Uswian is here."
The expression on his face changed from annoyance to hunger in a heartbeat. He sat up and reached for his pants. She left him to get dressed and went into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of scotch. Lighting a cigarette she watched expressionlessly as Ciaran stepped out of the bedroom and towards the stranger that stood in the middle of their home.
"You came back," Ciaran said, tucking his hands into his pockets.
"I said I would," the man told him.
"You said you would do anything for it."
Ciaran nodded. "So?"
"I'm here to take you up on that."
"Do I need a reason?" the man asked, adjusting his glasses.
Ciaran arched an eyebrow, his lips stretching into an empty smile. "There are reasons for everything."
"True enough. But I'm here on business, 'Raythe'. If you want the silence badly enough, you'll come with me."
"And if I don't?"
The Uswian smiled enigmatically and said nothing.
The silence stretched out for long minutes, the two just staring at each other. Silja broke the silence by slamming her glass down onto the counter, cracking it, and removed her cigarette from between her lips. Ciaran jumped slightly, jerking his eyes over to hers.
"Just go, Raythe," Silja told him softly.
"Silja - "
"What have you got to hold you here, Raythe?" she asked him, her eyes boring into his. "Is insanity what you want if you got the cure standing right in front of you?"
He bit his lip, eyes flickering between the two. "Silja ..."
"Just go, Raythe. You've always wanted that something more than anything else. So just go."
Shoulders sagged. Eyes dropped. Defeat had won out, his addiction claiming his life once more. "I'm sorry," he whispered as he moved to her, coming into the kitchen to give her a soft, gentle kiss. Pulling away he gave her a hauntingly real smile full of pain. "Thank you. For everything."
"I've told you not to thank me," she muttered as he looked over at the Uswian.
"Go wait in the limo," the man ordered.
Ciaran nodded and lifted his hand to touch his fingers to her lips. "Goodbye, Silja."
Then he was walking out of the small apartment and out of her life. Raising her cigarette to her mouth she turned and looked at the man in front of her. "He's a chain-smoker and an alcoholic and a trick," she told him in a flat voice.
"I know," the man replied.
"He's fucked in the head."
She took a deep drag. "He was my friend."
"He always will be."
"Tell him - " She hesitated, her eyes flickering away. "Tell him my name is - "
"I know what your name is," he said, cutting her off. "I'll tell him."
She looked at him. "You're like him, aren't you? That's why you have been in his mind all these months."
"I'm not exactly like him, but yes, we are alike."
She chuckled bitterly and turned her back on him and closed her eyes. "Take good care of him for me, all right?"
Two in the heart. One in the head. She was dead before she hit the ground. Tucking his gun back into his coat he pushed his glasses back up his nose and left the apartment, closing the door behind him. Walking down the stairs he made his way out of the building and to the limo. Climbing inside he buckled up and leaned back against the leather seat.
"Take us back to my hotel," he ordered the driver.
The limo pulled away and he turned his attention to the young man who was sitting across from him, green eyes studying him intently. "You killed her," he said softly, with no accusation in his voice. It was just a simple statement.
"I had to," the Uswian told him. "I was under orders."
Ciaran shrugged. "Silja's better off dead anyway."
"She told me to tell you her name."
"Really?" He looked at him with slight curiosity in his eyes. "What is it?"
Ciaran smiled slightly and looked out of the window. "And what's yours?"
"Arik. Arik Maas."
Ciaran nodded to himself and then curled up on the seat, closing his eyes. Arik watched him thoughtfully, seeing that Ciaran would never cry over her. He would remember her, yes, but cry over her? No. That's not who Ciaran was.
He had told Ciaran her name.
He had not told him that she had loved him.