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Chapter 26

She didn’t even bother to close the door as she left the house. Unfortunately, she had no idea where she was, so she just sat on the curb, and started crying. Someone sat beside her and put an arm around her, holding her. She leaned into the person, not caring who it was. She needed comfort. She was scared and upset, more so than she should’ve been.

“I’m sorry,” Stuart said.

“For what? For me being so screwed up?” she asked.

“No, for my Mom automatically thinking the worst,” he replied.

“She’s supposed to. A lot of kids are abused in situations like that, so it’s her job, or was. Anyway, she did it for so long, I guess, that she does it automatically, but I’m so screwed up I can’t accept help when it’s offered or when someone’s just trying to be nice to me. I get mad and try to push them away, without thinking about it. I just do it, and I will with you too.”

“I’ll deal with it, when it happens,” he said.

“No, you won’t, because I’m not going to let you go through it. I’m leaving and I’m not coming back. Thank you for everything, and tell you parents thank you for me,” she said, and stood up, but he grabbed her hand, standing up with her.

“I’m not letting you go,” he said.

“You don’t want to make me mad,” she said.

“And I don’t want you to leave, either,” he said.

“Why won’t you just let me go? I’m bad for you, for anyone. I’m just trouble,” she said, her voice rising. “You don’t know anything about me, so cut me loose while you can,” she continued.

“No,” was his simple response.

“What do you mean, ‘no’?” she asked, her anger rising.

“I’m not just letting you go. I was taught that when you care for someone, you fight for them. I’m going to fight for you, even if it’s with you I have to fight with,” he said.

“You’ve known me for what, three, four days, and you’re ‘in love’ with me? Get a life, Stu. I’m not worth the time or trouble,” she said.

“Yes, you are,” he replied.

“I hate you!” she said, trying to jerk her hand free, but he wouldn’t let go.

“No you don’t,” he said, his voice never rising.

“I’m warning you,” she said, again trying to get her hand free.

Playing with fire, and he knew it, he leaned in and kissed her, before she knew to react. It was a quick kiss, nothing more than a peck, but it was on her lips. The shock was painted on her face as she just stood there, staring at him.

Stuart was really scared he was about to get the crap beat out of him. He would almost have liked that more. What he got was worse. She started crying. Not caring what she did, he pulled her to his chest, holding her tightly to him.

“I’m a loser, a freak. Find someone better than me,” she said, trying to pull away.

“No, you’re not,” he told her, not letting her go.

“Don’t tell me what I am,” she screamed and started pounding on him, hitting him over and over. Individually, her hits didn’t hurt much, but the number of them were quickly adding up. As he thought about her hitting him, he almost laughed, realizing he got the tears, and the hitting.

As he thought that, something else happened that brought a completely new kind of fear to him, though. “Lilly,” he said, and the tone of his voice made her look up. Following his eyes, she turned to see several vans pulling up, very quickly. Men in military tactical gear poured out of the vans, all carrying army looking rifles.

“Stu, when I give you the word, run,” she said.

“I’m not letting you go,” he said.

“Don’t be stupid,” she argued, “We don’t have time for this.”

“I’m not letting you go,” he repeated.

“Fine, but be ready to run,” she again told him. He saw her eyes become a little glassy, and he assumed she was reaching out to an animal, but what happened next completely awed him. Out of the sky, from every direction, came birds. They came in the hundreds, maybe the thousands. He couldn’t tell, there were so many, and they seemed to be attacking the soldiers, or at least interfering with them.

She tugged on his hand, clearly wanting to run, so he complied. The men were completely preoccupied with the birds, firing indiscriminately, as the birds dove at them, time and time again. The soldiers were moving down the sidewalk, more out of reflex than any conscious decision.

“Lilly, come on,” he said, as she suddenly knelt down behind a car. Turning to look at her, he saw red blossoming from her side. “God, no!” he screamed.

“Take me inside,” she told him, her voice strained.

“They’ll see,” he said.

Although strained, the smile she gave him was sadistic, “No, they won’t.”

He started to help her, but quickly understood her request, as she seemed unable to carry herself. Instead, he lifted her in his arms, the second time he’d done so that day. As he turned toward the house, he got a faint glimpse of what appeared to be a black wall, but it was moving.

With no further thought about that, he went as quickly as he could carrying her in his arms, into the house. Although she didn’t weigh much, she was still a load to carry.

“You’re strong,” she said, smiling up at him, her eyes becoming glassy.

“Lilly,” he said, but got no response, as her eyes closed, and her head fell backwards.

“Dad!” he yelled.

“What happened?” his Dad asked as he began cutting the shirt off of her.

“A bunch of vans with lots of guys drove up and these guys in black gear started coming out and then lots of birds came and the guys started shooting the birds, but they shot her,” he said.

As soon as the shirt was out of the way, Stuart’s father started examining the wound. After a few moments, he looked up, “That probably hurt pretty bad, but it’s a clean wound and the bullet exited. Although I can’t be certain, I don’t think anything vital was hit, so nothing to do, but stitch it up.”

“Meri, get my kit, would you?” he said. “Stuart, get me super glue, and that magnifying glass I use for my models,” he then said.

With great care, he had Stuart hold the magnifying glass, so he could carefully apply the glue, then stitch the wound together. It wasn’t too much longer that his wife had put a new shirt on her. She’d bought several for her when she went shopping, but Lilly hadn’t packed them, before she ran out.

“Stuart, I wouldn’t let her know you saw her without her shirt. She might not appreciate it,” his mother said.

“Mom, she’s upset with herself with how she treated you, but then she started yelling at me, and trying to make me leave her,” he said.

“I told you that was how she’d react, if she started feeling like she was getting close, but it also applies to people being nice to her. She doesn’t know how to deal with it, so she tries to shove them away, because she’s scared of being abandoned again,” she told him.

“Why’s she unconscious?” he then asked his Dad, changing subjects somewhat unexpectedly.

“I honestly don’t know, other than maybe the body’s shock at having been shot, but that’s really just a guess,” he replied.

“Son, you need to figure out how much you’re willing to invest in her, because it’s going to take a lot. She’s had a hard life, and probably doesn’t know how to handle getting close,” his mother said, returning to the original topic.

“Mom, I only met her a few days ago, and I know I don’t know anything, really, and I know she’ll think I’m stupid, because maybe I am, but I think I love her,” he said. “Man, that was really bad, and I’ll never be able to tell her that,” he said.

“You already did, I think,” his Dad said.

Turning to look at her, he saw moisture in her eyes, which were open and riveted on him. For the first time ever, he understood the idea of looking into someone’s soul. He sank into the depths of her purple eyes, and inside there, he saw something.

As his mind was trying to grasp what he was seeing, the moment was shattered, “You’re such a dork.”

“But you like me too, don’t you,” he said, teasing her, unable to think of anything else.

“Yeah, a little, I guess,” she replied, and sat up, wincing as she did.

“You need to take it easy,” Mr. Rafferty said, as Stuart grabbed his father’s kit and left, rather abruptly.

Once he left, Mr. Rafferty said, “He just laid his heart out for you.”

“Yeah, and we’ve only known each other for what, two, three, maybe four days? I think it’s a bit early for something that deep. Besides, I’m no good for him,” she said.

“How do you figure that?” he asked.

“I have a rather impressive list of offenses,” she began.

But, he cut her off, “Such as?”

“Well let’s see,” she began and feigned thinking, “I sell drugs, I also use them, I’m a prostitute and general all round slut, I’ve shoplifted, stolen from friends and my mom, I beat up poor defenseless football players, badly, I shoot cops periodically, steel government computers, and hack them...oh and I’m a member of one of the worst gangs in the area,” she said, ticking the items off as she went.

“Most of that isn’t true,” he said.

“But some of it is, and I’m not easy to get to know, because I don’t want to get to know anyone,” she said.

“You could change that if you want,” he told her.

“I’m pretty sure I just said I don’t want to,” she said, rather sarcastically. “Life’s easier that way,” she continued, dropping the sarcastic tone.

“Actually, it might seem like that’s true, but it’s not. Life is much better when you have people around you that love you and you love them, even when there’s been pain with some of them,” he said.

“Try all of them. I’m tired of everyone leaving me, or believing the bad shit everyone says about me, so I’m not going to deal with it anymore,” she said.

“Don’t hurt him, please?” he asked, almost pleaded.

“If I hurt him now, it won’t be as bad as later,” she told him.

“For you, or him?” he asked.

“Both,” she said, without any pause.

“I won’t give up on you,” he said, having walked in at the end.

“Then you’re stupid,” she replied. “Besides, if I manage to escape the goons, I’ll probably be deported anyway,” she added.

“We need to talk about that little issue,” Mr. Rafferty said.

“What, that I can talk to animals, and control them?” she asked.

“No, the one that involves the CIA trying to capture you so some scientists can study you, and possibly dissect you,” he said. “I don’t want my good work to go to waste,” he threw in.

“I’m not the only one that knows the fine art of sarcasm, it seems,” she said, with a slight smile.

“You should smile more. It’s very pretty on you,” he then said, making the smile instantly go away.

“Anyway, I’ve been thinking about it, and I really think you need to talk to the press, and give them some of these files. Don’t give them the computer, though. My suggestion is to copy them onto a thumb drive and leave the computer someplace they won’t likely find it. That gives you some insurance, albeit, not much,” he said.

“What happens if your plan doesn’t work?” she asked.

“There’s a good chance it won’t. The press might not listen to you, or they might decide that they can’t run the story due to security concerns, and yes, they actually do adhere to that, once in awhile. Anyway, for one reason or another, they very well might not take the story, and then you’ve exposed yourself for no gain,” he told her.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“Right now, you’re being chased constantly, and that’s no way to live,” he said.

“I can’t do it much longer. I’m tired, and…,” she trailed off.

“You’re a kid and aren’t mature enough to handle something this deep. I wouldn’t be, and you’ve been doing it for some time now,” he said.

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