Chapter 17- Confession
Helda and I emerged from our rooms at the same time. Both wearing dark shades fit for training.
“I don’t think it matters if I am or not.”
“Have more confidence! I’m sure everything will work out.”
Edith was a skilled fighter. And I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit my nervousness. With each step we took, the deeper the well in my stomach forged.
“How are you such a good fighter without your powers?”
Helda paused on a step, “It’s not about my powers. It’s about my drive. You want to go home right?” I nodded. “So fight like it. Or, spar like it. After all your training you wouldn’t want it to end here, wouldn’t you?”
“Good!” Helda smirked, “That’s the spirit.” She punched my shoulder.
Entering the training floor everyone awaited us. Engaging in small chat while they shifted to give Edith the space to speak. Her glare menacing as she followed my steps towards the group.
“Good morning everyone. Today we’ll be sparing in pairs at the same time and then we’ll do a tournament after. Winner chooses dinner tonight, I think that sounds fair.” Helda clasped her hands while Bhaskar shot a glare. “Catori’s with Bhaskar, Helda with Ralph, and Raymond with me.“Edith’s tone grew cold, walking away into an empty area.
“Good luck.” Helda winked.
Awkwardly shuffling past the others, a faint humming vibrated across my forehead. Suppressed negativity thumping loudly, calling at my failure. My failure caused a distrust in my ability to succeed. Led Edith to believe I was stupid. And weak. Pathetic. No one thinks I’m good enough. I have to prove them wrong. I have to... This is my one chance to prove that I’m worth more than my anxiety.
We circled each other in deafening silence. Sturdy stances anticipating conflict. I took the first offensive, striking an empty punch. Edith’s expression hardened, swerving out of the way. I reeled back, gearing for another attack when Edith swiped my legs from underneath me.
A loud smack pinched my stomach. Breath wavering as I frantically crawled away. A thin rope latched to my ankle, hauling me back. A weighed fragment of light bloomed from my hand, reaching over and slicing the rope. I hopped up, Edith making quick work latching my vulnerable wrist. With the brace of my arm a sharp shield disarmed the rope. Only for it to take hold of my light.
My heels dug the mat as I held the shield in front of my face. Vines slowly corrupting my hold. I dissipated my light and jumped back. Exhaling deeply through a nagging strain from my palms as light was created from thin air. A massive wall of light circled my person. Feet planted as I sent this massive wave to Edith. Her face widened as the light consumed her, knocking her across the mat.
My fingers snapped and the light was gone. With only a disgruntled Edith recovering from the blow with a mess of vines surrounding her.
She stood up, fixing her tank, “Raymond, can we talk?” Edith panted with broken eyes.
“Yes.” My reply caught the air.
Edith cracked her knuckles, guiding me up the staircase just out of shot from the others. “You don’t have to fight with us.” She exhaled, “I... I apologize if I’ve made you feel lesser because of your ability to fight. I care about your well being, Raymond, you’re a good man. But you haven’t been here as long as the rest of us.”
“This is my fight just as much as it is yours.” I crossed my arms.
“I understand that Raymond... But the last time the Forgotten went against the corporation it ended in genocide. You may have proven yourself as a fighter, but you don’t need to compromise your nature.”
“I don’t believe I have a choice. I can’t sit still while the rest of you fight for my freedom. If that became the case, I don’t deserve to return home.”
Edith’s gaze softened, “Is going home what you really want? I respect wanting to go home, but I advise you to really think about what you want. Time, is irrelevant. You’ll soon have a choice that will change your life. I’m not trying to persuade you either which way but I do want you to know the option is there for you.”
“Thank you.” I shied a shielded grin, “I appreciate your reassurances. But my mind hasn’t changed, I have a family to return to. And there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to get them back.” I asserted.
Edith’s reflection glossed over her emotions, “Well then I’m glad you know what you want.”
A knock at the door disrupted my silence with a thin silhouette waiting patiently. I answered the request, watching honey skin emerge from the curtain.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t come sooner.” A relieved smile rushed over for an embrace.
“It’s okay, Blake. I’m okay.” I shuddered, absorbing the armth of their energy.
“Edith and Ralph told me everything.” A soothing sensation washed down my body, sprouting from Blake’s hands. “Do you need healing?” Their energy hovered over my bruises.
“No, I think I’m okay. But thank you.”
Blake’s body twisted towards the curtain, “Alexander’s about to make an announcement. That’s all anyone’s been talking about all day, let’s go watch it.”
My serenity diminishes the closer we got to the t.v. The entire group appeared lost in thought with their eyes glued to the screen. Catori and Edith sat on the couch, hands intertwined. Bhaskar sat in a chair with his legs propped along the arms. And Helda sat on the opposite chair’s arm, arms twisted in front of her for support.
“Has it started?” Blake asked.
“No but-” The graphic on the screen flickered, “That’s it.” Ralph entered the area, parking between Edith and Helda.
“Good evening, tonight, this broadcast is not only for New York, or my American supporters, but for the world. Tonight, I am here to confirm the rumors that have speculated around the corporation. The myth of time travel, many cultures around the world have created legends of strange oddities within their communities. I’m here to confirm that these suspicions are true.
My corporation is a independent business that works alongside nations of NATO to secure security and freedom from outside threats. For many years we assumed this to be exclusive to the threats in our own time. But with the assistance from other interest groups, we have uncovered threats from outside our timeline. We know who’s responsible for the string of assaults to my officials who have attempted to disrupt the law and order in this city. These deceptive criminals have attempted to assassinate crucial political figures and destabilize proper funding to this city’s most vulnerable. There may be more scattered across our countries, but we have the names of these powered individuals in charge. I, Alexander Lothar, call for the arrest of Edith Elwyn, Catori Papsepegh, Bhaskar Datta, and my great uncle, Ralph Lothar.”
THUMP THUMP. Half our heads whipped to Ralph. Whose horrified expression froze.
“Yes, you heard that correctly. Ralph Lothar, son of my grandfather Otto Lothar who founded this great corporation. My great uncle turned against the greatness my grandfather created and has lead an insurgence of powered individuals across time-”
“You’re... A Lothar?”
The enemy... He’s been lying among us all this time.
Catori and Bhaskar jumped from their seats. Their powers on full display.
“You’re a lying disgrace.” Catori hissed with misted eyes.
I staggered backwards, jaw trembling.
“Stop it.” Edith stood between Catori and Ralph.
“Stop what? He’s one of them.” Helda reminded nonchalantly.
Edith circled around, eyeing all of us before looking down, “I know.”
“You what?” Catori growled.
“I know who he is,” Edith stood her ground, “I have for a long time now.”
“Well aren’t you full of secrets.” Helda smirked to Edith, then Ralph, then to me.
The attention turned to Bhaskar, who extinguished his flame, speaking angrily through his gestures.
“I know Bhaskar, I know...” Edith pursed her lip.
“You told Edith and not the rest of us?” Tears slipped down cheek.
I turned, stricken by Blake’s confession. Their brows narrowed as they shied away from my contact.
“I know I should have said something, okay? But I was scared to.” Ralph fumbled over his words.
“Scared? Then what should the rest of be? Are you even remotely aware of the damage you’ve caused us?” Catori pushed Edith aside, looking down at him.
“That wasn’t me!” Ralph shakily waved his hand, “Ray?”
We looked to each other with blurred vision. My lungs choked on the air around me. He... I clutched my shaky hands.
“You’re one of them...”
I allowed myself to be close to the enemy. The reason for my misery. My tragedy. My stomach sank with the weight of betrayal.
“Ray it’s not what you think... Ray? Raymond!”
In a dizzy haze I stumbled into my room. Heart thumping louder than my steps. Throwing open the curtain I collapsed on the cold concrete. A numbing tingle shot up my knees. The cold draft whisked me from reality. Trapping me with my thoughts.
“Get out.” I shot up, spinning towards his voice.
“No please, you have to listen to me.”
“You’re my enemy!” I cried.
“No,” Ralph shook his head. “I not them!” He broke down in tears. “I refuse to be.”
“You carry their name.”
“But not their legacy.”
My heart ached in realization, “This is why you’re staying.”
Ralph looked away, “Yes.” He sighed.
“Ray...” Ralph wheeled himself closer.
“Shut up. Please.” I threw my hands up.
“I’m here to end all of this. I’m going to fight for you, okay? I’m not going to hurt you.”
“How do I know that?”
Ralph paused, hand clutched to his wheel. Devastation consumed his eyes.
“How do I not know you’ll use me just as your ancestor’s have?” I questioned with newfound rage.
Ralph bit his lip, “Because I care about you.”
“You say that to everyone.” I dismissed.
“No. Well, yes.” He played with his hands. “Raymond, you’re different.”
“Different how?” I leaned back.
“Because I like you Raymond! You’re sweet, and passionate. And your light...” He smiled at my palms, “Is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. You’re different- A good different! When I’m around you all I feel is love. I can’t even begin to describe how much I’ve cherished our late night conversations or early morning training... Raymond Walters, the world shines a little brighter whenever I’m around you...”
His voice trailed off, the glow in his face dying with it. “Fuck. I’m- This is so pathetic, I’m-”
I rushed over, grabbing the hem of his sweater and pressed my lips against his. Nose gliding alongside his stunned frame. My heart swelled as tears fell from my chin before I let go, collapsing in front of him.
I just- My hand covered my gasp while the other slammed against the floor. Ralph’s lips lifted with soft lids. A tearful glimmer in his eye gazed into my stunned complexion.
I’ve wanted to do that for so long.
My heart fluttered with the mixture of satisfaction and fear. Ralph watched as my trembling hand dropped to my lap. His chin shifting with compassion. Gulping down my anxieties I grew lost in his trance. Those olive eyes growing indifferent while he digested the moment.
He lifted his hand, sliding it alongside my face, holding my cheek. Ralph’s soft thumb brushing away a stray tear. He looked to me with love in his eyes, glancing down to my lips before leaning in for another kiss.
The suppleness of his lips comforted me in a way I had never experienced. Our bodies intertwined where I was underneath him while I leaned against his knees. The warmth of our connection lingered as we broke with our foreheads resting against each others.
When I pulled away I rested my back against my bed. Staring at Ralph in appreciation. He had made me forget our troubles momentarily, but the reality of our time began to set in.
Ralph noticed my shift in tone, moving his legs with his hands as he climbed out of his chair and sat beside me. He wrapped his muscular arm around my shoulder, nudging me to lean against his chest.
“I’m going to get you home, because I love you.”
I looked up at him, tears returning to my already swollen face. All this time, his kindness sprouted from love, not pity.
In that moment, I realized how much I truly cared for him. He cheered me up when no one else could. Did his best to comfort my fears and guide me through this confusing reality. I loved him too. But I had repressed these feelings because of the will of my society. But here, in this time, I had the liberty to become my truth.
“You don’t need to say anything back, I just needed to tell you that.” Ralph leaned his head on my bed.
“I’m sorry for how I’ve acted.” I pressed my ear against his chest.
“There’s no need to apologize. I understand. But please know, for as long as we exist in the same time, I’ll be here for you. Always.”