Chapter One: Theo
I pace anxiously outside the doors of the infirmary. Abhaya is still unconscious from all the blood she lost and the bullets Donatella shot her with. She risked everything to find her mom. And that included her life. She saved Aj from a lethal shot to the stomach. Aj got away with a no injuries. Abhaya found Chloe and Brooke was there to greet me with a weak smile.
“Theo,” Chloe says, opening a door to the infirmary, “she’s not awake yet. Brooke left an hour ago while you were resting.”
“Thank you,” I say, running my hand through my hair. I haven’t washed it in four days and it’s greasy as heck. “How is Abhaya?” Saying her real name is foreign to my lips. I’m so used to calling her Phoenix now that I almost forgot her name is Abhaya.
Chloe leans against the threshold and sighs. Being gone for eleven years can change a person quite a bit. “She’s stable. The doctors removed the four bullets in her shoulder and her stomach.” She sucks in a breath. “There’s a lot of painkillers in her and the side-effects include drowsiness, nausea, and clouded thinking. But she’ll be fine within the next few days.” Chloe reaches into her pocket and pulls a colored square photo out. “Here, take this. It’s one of the few photos Andrew recently gave me. It’s Abhaya’s graduation photo.”
I accept the photo and study it, finding many similarities between Abhaya and Chloe. “Thank you,” I say. “She looks a lot like you.” I look from the photo to her.
“Well, I would hope that she would look somewhat like me. I’m her mother after all.” Chloe chuckles and sighs. “She’s a good person and she deserves someone like you. I’m glad that you two met. I have to go check on Aj now. Feel free to check on Abhaya every now and then. Bye, Theo.”
“See you.” I move out of Chloe’s way as she walks past me.
I stare at the photo of Abhaya. In the photo, she wears the traditional gray graduation robe and hat with a white tassel. Abhaya beams as she holds her diploma with pride. Honor cords adorn her neck as she wears multiple of them. I already knew that she’s an intelligent person. She was in a couple of my classes at North Kate Private School. Abhaya was always a coy person when it came to talking to others.
It’s felt like a thousand years since I’ve seen Brooke. She was my best friend and I was hers. I have so much to tell and ask her about. I’ll give her some time to recover and adapt to her new surroundings.
“Hi, you’re Theo, right?” a voice asks, causing me to raise a fist in self-defense.
I turn around and see Aj, Abhaya’s older brother. “Yes, and you’re Aj. Abhaya’s older brother and the reason we had information about Donatella.”
“Yep.” He scratches the back of his neck. “Are you two, um, dating? It’s okay, I won’t kill you. Abhaya is really good about keeping secrets and hiding feelings for others.”
“I guess you could say that. I mean we’re together. Wait, you going to give me the ‘if you hurt my sister, I’ll make you regret it’ talk?” I raise an eyebrow.
Aj snorts. “Nah, that’s more of my dad’s specialty. You’re a cool guy, Theo, and I want Abhaya to be happy. Just try not to break her heart or she’ll kick your ass.”
I fold my arms over my chest and smile at the floor. “I’ve seen her kick some ass and man, she’s good at it. Has she ever told you that she puts the ‘cute’ in execute?”
Aj closes his eyes and grins. “Oh my god, she didn’t do it to me but a guy she went to school with did. Oh man, I swear she tried to kill him.” Aj laughs. “She hates that word. She says it makes her vulnerable and not as tough as she is. Have you called her cute?”
“Once,” I confess. “She told me what you just said about the execute thing.” I don’t tell him the rest.
“Well, I have to get going. Nice talking to you, Theo. See you later.” Aj walks away and I laugh.
I walk toward the door and rest my head on it for a moment, letting my hand rest on the handle. Does Phoenix think about me the way I think about her? Does she know that she is the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I fall asleep?