What’s A Year Worth?

Grabbing her bag off the carousel, Sparrow set it on the floor and pulled up the handle. Rotating her head, she tried to ease some of the tightness in her shoulders and neck from the flight.

She was sure if she had told Vincent she was coming home for a couple days, he would have upgraded her flight to first class, but she didn’t see the point. She didn’t care where she was sitting on the plane as long as she got there at the same time.

The events from the past week had replayed over and over again in her head. The trip had started off so well. She had met with Vincent, they had slipped back into their old old roles and for the first time in ten years she felt like herself again. Since she left that condo downtown, the one she had shared with Vincent and Harrison, she felt like she had been wearing a mask, hiding who she was from everyone she met.

Dressing up and going to that event with Vincent had been fun too. She had been light headed, grabbing flute after flute of champagne from passing trays. Her belly had been full of finger sandwiches, and shrimps and other things she wasn’t even sure what they were, but she had taken handfuls of.

It was like when you were a child and you pretended to be an astronaut or a doctor. She was pretending to be a woman of mystery. It was thrilling.

After that night, everything seemed to slowly fall apart. Harrison had appeared and he had brought with him the woman in his life. Both of which she could have gone without the added stress of having in her life.

Pulling her phone out of her pocket, she switched the Airplane Mode off.

As soon as she did, her phone vibrated. Notification after notification popped up on her phone. She waited a moment, letting them all load before scrolling through them. There were a few missed calls from Vincent, some text messages from him as well. One of her apps let her know Jake had checked-in at her favourite bar down the street from her apartment.

She could use a drink. She would drop her bags off at home and head over to the bar to surprise him.

*

There was a live band tonight.

Standing outside the bar, she pushed her hair back behind her shoulder and pulled down the hem of her fitted black dress. She had taken the time to freshen up when she had gotten home. Hopped in the shower, put on some mascara, wiggled into the dress she knew Jake loved so she could surprise him.

The bouncer, a guy named Mike who she knew because she had frequented this place often looked her up and down and smiled. “Stop fussing, you look amazing.”

Sparrow smiled. “Thanks Mike. Did you see Jake tonight?”

He nodded, adjusting the toothpick in his mouth. “I saw him go in with a group about an hour ago. The work crowd, I think.”

She knew the crowd. There were a lot of nights where she was one in that crowd. They waved at one another as she walked past him inside.

The temperature difference from outside to in was drastic. She could feel the heat from all the bodies loaded in there, the way they moved around, bumping together at the bar. It felt like she was walking into a heat wave.

Despite the heeled booties she was wearing, she stood on her tip-toes to look around the room, trying to catch a glimpse of him. Pushing her way through the mass of people enjoying both their drinks and the band, she made her way to lean over the bar. Smiling at the woman behind the bar, she waited for her to walk over and pour her the usual tequila shot she started her nights with here. “Hey Jill, have you seen Jake tonight?”

Jill tilted her head back towards the hall leading towards the bathrooms. “I saw him heading back to the johns a few minutes ago.”

Tossing the shot back, she winked at her before walking back towards the bathrooms. Pausing for a moment, she scrunched the hair at the back of her head. With everything that happened in the past week, she felt like she hadn’t seen Jake in a really long time. She needed some normalcy in her life.

Turning the corner, she stood in the hall outside of the bathrooms. She was hoping he would come out and she would be the first thing he saw.

In the dimly lit hallway, there were a handful of couples pressed up against the wall. Their arms were wrapped around one another as the alcohol coursed through their veins and their hormones were ramped up. Something about the music and the dim lighting, scantily clad people all standing a little too close.

She definitely understood.

A few of the couples seemed to pull apart, deciding they wanted to step everything up and didn’t want an audience. The last couple left were in the far corner. When he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her up off the floor against him, Sparrow couldn’t help but raise a brow. It was like a car crash, you didn’t want to look, but you couldn’t quite look away. As the woman wrapped her legs more tightly around him, she dropped her head to devour his neck.

Closing his eyes, he let his head fall back.

Jake.

Sparrow was frozen in place for a split second before she turned around so her back was to them. Jake was lifting his co-worker Brittany off the ground. Her skirt was barely covering the bottom of her ass cheeks and if Sparrow didn’t know any better she would bet they were actually having sex right now.

A storm of emotions went through her. A part of her wanted to march over there, grab Brittany by the hair and punch Jake with all her strength.

But she wasn’t that kind of person…

Pulling her phone out of her purse, she took a picture of the two of them.

Turning around, she quickly left the bar and made her way back to her apartment. Sitting on the arm of her couch, she punched a number into her phone and made some arrangements.

Going into her room, she repacked a bag, printed out the photo and taped it to her apartment door before heading to the airport.

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The Nest She Built

Love is this weird thing. It was something most people thought they understood and knew, but very few people actually did either.
For most of your life you are trapped behind this window of what you think love is supposed to be, and you look over over the world through this glass of judgement, wondering why so many people are getting it wrong.
In your eyes, when you don’t know what it is, love is comparable. You feel love a certain way from one person and if every other person you know doesn’t love you exactly that way, then they’re doing it wrong. After that one person loves you, love is always supposed to be kisses in the rain, and waking up with a smile to the smell of coffee being waved under your nose. It’ll always be talking until you fall asleep, never sleeping alone, and never feeling alone. Love will always be what it was, or what you remember later…

Sparrow jumped as arms moved around her waist. She slammed the brown leather cover of her journal closed as the familiar smell washed over her. “Hey.” She smiled, but it felt forced. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
He laughed. “Really? I fought with the lock on your front door for ten minutes. You should really let me fix it.”
She laughed awkwardly as she turned around in her desk chair to face him.
Raising a brow, he looked past her. “What are you up to?”
Pursing her lips, Sparrow pushed her hair back behind her ears. “Nothing. Just winding down. I was out all day.”
He nodded. “I know. I texted you about a dozen times.”
Reaching into her purse that was thrown on the bench by the window, she pulled it out and waved it between them. “I keep forgetting to charge it.”
Jake sat down in the chair in the corner and looked at her. He swept his chestnut hair back from over his forehead and looked at her with his hazel eyes for a moment before dragging his hand over the stubble on his chin. “I don’t know what the point in having a cellphone is, if no one can ever reach you.”
Nodding, she smiled at him. “Alright.” Reaching for the cord plugged in beside her desk, she plugged it in. When it chimed to let her know it was charging, she raised her brows at him. “You’ll be able to reach me for a full 24 hours.”
Sighing, Jakes eyes went back to the book on her desk. “What are you writing?”
“Just journaling.” She answered nonchalantly, reaching under her journal to push the envelope under and out of view.
He looked at her. “Since when do you journal?”
Sparrow had been with Jake for over a year. She felt like they had a lot in common and at first she had just been happy for the companionship. He treated her well, he took her out, they had an open line of communication, yet she always felt like something was missing. In the back of her mind, she wondered if she was already spoiled, tainted for any man that was foolish enough to walk into her life.
Jake was a catch… every one she knew had told her so.
“I don’t really. Just thought I’d start.” It was a lie she wasn’t sure why she was telling. The truth was she journaled regularly. She found comfort in a place where she could sort through her thoughts. It had all started when she was younger. When she had been taken in by Vincent, her whole world seemed to be crumbling around her and coping seemed impossible. She didn’t know Vincent well enough to fall into him when the world slipped out from under her feet. Seeing she had so much pent up inside her, he had suggested a journal.
Jake raised a brow. “Anything worth reading in there?” His lips turned up into a soft smile.
Shaking her head, she walked past him. Grabbing onto his hand, she pulled him out of her study. “I am starving, let’s go eat.”
She wasn’t starving. The truth was she had eaten only a few hours ago and had eaten a whole chocolate bar only minutes before he got in.
Her stomach was wrapped up in knots. She could see the envelope so clearly in her mind, could see the familiar handwriting on the front, centred perfectly.
No return address, there was no need. She knew who it was from, knew any details would be inside.
It had been awhile since she had gotten a letter like this one.
Clearing her throat, she tried to push it out of her mind as she shoved her feet into shoes, picked up her bag and held the door open for a stumbling Jake to hurry through.
What could he want after all this time?

.
Sparrow held the worn envelope she had hidden under her journal that day in her hand now. Leaning against the wall in the elevator, she thought about Jake, about the discussion she had with him right before she had left.
He had been hesitant about her going away, even a bit angry when she had told him she didn’t know how long she would be gone. She had softened the blow slightly by assuring him she was still in this relationship with him. That had caused him to bring up moving in together again…
Feeling backed into a wall, she had agreed and it had dissolved some of the doubt that was growing between them.
Letting out a long sigh, she walked out of the elevator on her floor and down the hall into her hotel room.
Tossing her purse across the room, she ignored it when she missed the bed and it fell to the floor on the other side. Leaning against the door, she jumped at the knock.
All she wanted to do was get completely undressed and sink into a bath. Vincent was busy all day, so she knew it wasn’t him, and she wasn’t really open to seeing anyone else now.
Pulling the door open, she couldn’t help but let out a long sigh as she looked at the pristinely prepped woman standing there in high waisted white trousers and a button down tank, also white. Pushing her lush blonde hair over her shoulder, she looked at Sparrow and forced a smile. “Can we talk?”
Leaning against the door, Sparrow closed the door slightly and looked at the woman standing there. “Rachel… I really don’t think this is a good idea. Look, you come in here and we talk, that opens this door to Harrison coming over here to ask me what I have been talking to you about and the last thing I want is to have to open this door to Harrison. I have worked really hard to close the doors in my life on Harrison King.” She couldn’t help the exhaustion from dripping into her voice.
Rachel held her hand out to Sparrow, hoping to stop her from saying anything else. “Please. I will talk fast, I swear.”
She shook her head. “How fast you talk really isn’t the problem. I just don’t want to get involved in whatever is going on between the two of you. I have my own stuff going on here. I am just here to spend time with Vincent, then I am going home, back to my life, my house, my job, and my boyfriend. I don’t want to take Harrison back with me, or Meredith… or you.”
Crossing her arms over her chest, she stuck her nose up at Sparrow. “Meredith was right about you, do you know that? You honestly can’t give me five minute? What kind of person can’t spare five minutes?”
Sparrow couldn’t help but feel like there was an enormous weight pushing down on her. Everything about this trip seemed to be blowing up in her face. She had run into Harrison more times than she ever would have wanted, now she was in the middle of his relationship. She was starting to feel like she needed a break from all of this. “Rachel, I don’t know you. Why do you feel I need to give you any of my time?”
“You know Harrison better than anyone.”
“I knew him. It’s been ten years… I don’t know Harrison any better than you do at this point.” She reached her hand up and pressed it to her forehead that was beginning to throb.
“I don’t know what your problem is. Vincent and Harrison gave you everything. Harrison gave up a lot of years with Meredith to be with you, and you just walked away from everything.” The look in her eyes was one she had seen before. “Then you just show up. Just when Harrison and I are beginning to get serious. Meredith thinks you are trying to get between us, and I think she is right.” She let her eyes roam all the way down to Sparrow’s feet before slowly returning her gaze to her eyes. “You don’t fit in with the Kings. You never did, and you never will. I belong there…”
Sparrow nodded. “I am sure you do, Rachel.”
She scoffed. “You really are something.”
Throwing her hands back, she pushed at her cheeks with her hands. She was beginning to feel like she was on some Japanese game show, this was all just so unbelievable to her. “Okay, I think I have had enough of this…” Sparrow slowly closed the door before locking it.
Walking slowly to the bed, she sat down. Staring at the door, she wondered if Rachel was still standing there on the other side. Sighing, she picked up the phone and waited for the lobby. “Hi, I’d like to check out. Yes. Right away please.”
She needed to get out of here.
She needed to go home, back where things made sense so she could catch her breath.

A Week

When she had first heard the sound, it had been deafening. As the clock in the corner of the room slowly ticked, the sound of time passing became as loud of cannon fire in her ears, the long continuous beep faded into the background.

Blinking slowly, she felt herself step away from her heart. She couldn’t keep it, not any longer. She couldn’t live through the pain that resonated there, that grew and grew until it filled her heart to the point of breaking.

 So she stepped away, leaving it there, lonely and beating.

As she turned away from the doctor that was still talking to her, she picked her bag up from the chair by the door. She could feel the stiff edge of the Bristol board shoving up into her armpit. She didn’t have to open her bag to see the Lost Dog poster inside. She saw that poster when she closed her eyes; it was the same poster she had been handing out for weeks.

She walked through the halls of the hospital like a zombie. She moved out of instinct alone, yet somehow, she managed to emerge outside into the sun.

Turning her face up, she felt the sun kiss her cheeks ever so gently before it disappeared all together. Dark clouds covered the sun up in an instant, a small drop of water dropping onto her cheek before she pulled her hood over her head and shoved her hands into her pockets.

Thunder boomed as the sky cracked open. Thick drops of rain fell, soaking her in an instant as she walked back to her car.

Headlights lit up for a moment as the car unlocked and she slowly got in. Despite the rain outside soaking through her cotton hoodie, she was in no hurry. Sliding into the driver’s seat, she sat there for a moment before putting the key into the ignition.

Her red car whined for a moment before starting; a sure sign that it would need to be looked at sooner, rather than later. It was a new whine, one she hadn’t heard before.

With the day she was having, that sound made perfect sense. She didn’t furrow her brow, she didn’t purse her lips, she simply accepted it as she put her car in drive and pulled out of her parking space. As she pulled out of the parking lot, she looked at the yellow slip of paper tucked under her windshield wiper.

Driving through the streets, she made her way home.

She drove past a dozen of posters taped to the light poles that lined the streets. Bright yellow, green, and pink boards with the same poster on it that was slowly being blurred as the rain seeped through the tape and made the color run together.

The garage door opened as her car approached it. She pulled in, turning her head slightly as she heard the sound of glass breaking and fiberglass splintering. Eyes blank, she looked at her passenger side mirror hanging from wires.

Grabbing her bag, she got out of her car. She didn’t bother to lock it as the garage door closed behind her. Walking through the door, she stepped into the hallway off the kitchen. Dropping her bag on the chair, she ignored all the posters sliding out onto the floor as the bag slumped over and hit the button on her answering machine.

As she slowly stripped, making her way to her bathroom, the messages droned on in the background. She didn’t know why she had pressed the button, urging those messages to play when she had absolutely no intention of listening to any of them.

Perhaps she had left her mind back at the hospital with her heart.

Completely naked, she walked into her bathroom and started the shower. Stepping in, she immediately sat in the tub, letting the water from her shower rain over her as she brought her knees up to her chest.

The sound of her messages still droned in the background.

Her skin ached. The water was so hot, it felt like a hundred small pins poking into her as she sat there, but she made no move to adjust the temperature. Closing her eyes, she rested her cheek on her knee and let it torture her slowly.

We really need you to come back to the hospital. I know you are going through a difficult time now, but there is some paperwork that needs to be attended to before-

Absentmindedly, she ran her hands down her legs. She could feel the sharp stubble growing in there.

Frowning, she grabbed her razor and a bar of soap.

Rubbing the soap slowly along her legs, she let it foam up before running the razor up her leg. Her mind was blank, without a single thought floating around in it. Instead, her eyes just followed the bubble trail down her shin as she pulled the razor up to the base of her knee.

As she shook the razor in the water pooling around her, her eyes caught on the pink water passing her to get to the drain. Her eyes nonchalantly rose, catching the small cut on her leg.

 No flinch, no wince, no pain.

Here in the shower, as the scalding water poured over her, she was completely numb.

Numb to everything out there in the world.

Numb to all the feelings that flooded her abandoned heart, the thoughts that clouded her absent mind.

Staring at the cut, she watched, as it seemed dark red for a single moment before the water washed it away. Then it would be red again, only to once again be washed away, almost before she could catch sight of it.

We’re so sorry… The messages of her machine droned on, the sound of the shower streaming against her face making them sound like they were coming from so far away.

Looking at the blades of the razor, she pulled the heavy plastic frame away from them. It took some tugging, the blades cutting into her thumbs as she tried to break the blades free.

She didn’t need to ignore the sting of the blades slicing into her thumbs. She couldn’t even feel them.

When the razor finally broke apart in her hands, she heard one blade bang against the tiles of her shower floor as the other two were held in her hands.

They seemed so small.

Holding the blades in between her fingers, she slowly dug them into the flesh of her arms. She could feel the pressure as the blade broke through the skin. She trailed them up her arms before letting the blades join the other on the shower floor.

Lying down, she pulled her knees to her chest. As she closed her eyes, she could still hear the long beep from the hospital room, the sound of the tape being pulled, wrapped around light pole after light pole as she stared at the latest picture of her dog. Her messages droned on as the water ran red under her.

If you could just call me… Just… call me. Please. I’m afraid of what you might do… after everything that’s happened this week.

Three Months Later

Letting out a long breath, he remembered all the training he had put himself through. Money could get you anything you want, it opened doors that were usually closed, or sometimes even non-existent.

After a few calls and using some of his brother’s old connections, he had found the man he was looking for and travelled all the way out to the Sonoran Desert to seek him out.

Hunter was a different man now. He could feel the change, looking back at the person he was only months ago as though he were a stranger.

If his brother could see him now, he thought. He would be proud, he told himself.

Every moment in his life had been moments wasted. Time he could have spent trying to find purpose. Instead, he had been perfectly content spending his life under the umbrella of the Hunter name, in the shadow of his brother’s accomplishments.

All of his life until a few months ago had been a waste. A waste of life.

So many more years could have passed with him living his life exactly the same way he had been. Missing all the kinds of moments that define people.

Undefined with no character and without the ambition to go looking for anything that could change him and shape him into the kind of person he was now.

All because he fell into the street.

That day could have gone completely different for him. He could have fallen, and she could have been somewhere else.

He used to think he welcomed death. There had been nothing for him to live for. No reason for him to care about living or dying.

Until he saw her.

She looked like someone who lived outside of the world everyone else created. No makeup on, making no effort to conform to societies idea of what she should look like with a self-confidence that radiated off her.

Pulling him out of the road just in time to save his life, he waited. Expecting her to recognize him, he had been in a few trashy magazines that wrote he was well on his way to destroying his family’s name. Most women looked at him and saw dollar signs, and the kind of face that made being a gold digger that much easier.

She looked right through him. He had never felt more worthless than when her eyes skimmed over him and she began to walk away without saying anything to him.

It was wonderful. It intrigued him to want to know absolutely everything about her. She made that extremely difficult.

Now that he knew more about who she was, the life she had come from and the life she had lived, he knew why she was so hesitant to invite anyone into her life.

The man who had owned the private plane had given him her bag when he carried her off the plane. She had purposely left it there, all she was inside one bag just in case she didn’t make it out of Refuge alive.

Later, he had gone through her bag.

The woman he had decided to call Athena had little belongings. A few changes of clothes, mostly weapons, and a wooden box. What was inside the box intrigued him just as much as she did.

Nothing but names.

One of the names interested him more than the others.

Malcolm Hunter.

From what he could make of who she was, he knew that box was full of the names of her victims. Athena had killed his father.

At first, that knowledge had torn through him. He was hit with a rush of emotions, unable to focus on just one. Then, after a long overdue visit to his mother, he learned more about his father’s character. His dear old dad wasn’t the man he always thought he was.

Athena wasn’t the kind of woman who knocked people off without good reason. She was someone who believed in justice, in levelling the playing field between the good and the bad.

His father, seemed to fall on the bad side of the scales.

It took him awhile to wrap his mind around that. His mother had told him that if she had known who he was going to become before she married him, she would have ignored the feelings she had for him and moved on. Her eyes got all glassy, and Hunter wondered just how much his mother had endured during their marriage.

We all endure pains inflicted by people we think love us. Those were the last words his mother said to him when he left her that day.

Steadying himself on the branch he perched on, he brought the scope up to his eye. The smell in the air caused his heart to pound anxiously against his chest. It was daunting, reminding him of the trauma he barely escaped.

A ghost, he marvelled in his newfound abilities.

The windows were all covered over, either by the dirt and grime of these woods or the boards pushed up against them from the inside.

The numbness in his legs was something he could easily ignore. He had already been ignoring it for over an hour.

Athena’s gun felt like it was at home in his hands. Letting out a breath, he resisted the urge to grin when the man he knew only as ‘Twee’ stepped out into the sim sunlight. Without pause, his finger pressed lightly against the trigger.

Twee crumpled to the ground before he could even prepare himself.

If there was one thing he had learned, it was that none of the orphans here at Refuge had been trained with guns, which was probably why Athena seemed so fond of them.

The silencer had hushed the sound of the bullet leaving the barrel. A pop had sounded through the air, it seemed loud to him in the silence, but the birds perched in his tree barely stirred.

All the torture he had endured at the hands of Twee, he was glad to see the world rid of him, but he wasn’t the one he was looking for.

Someone else stepped out, their eyes dropping to their fallen comrade on the floor.

Hunter pressed the trigger, the other body falling on top of Twee.

They would pile up, he would get rid of all of them if he had to.

It was a heartless thought. It was entirely possible there were orphans in there similar to Athena, just trying to escape a life they were merely trying to survive. He would never shoot a child. He just had to pray that no children stepped out into the clearing and made him decide what was more important.

Hours passed, the body count was already at seven before he saw the man he had been waiting for.

Aleksandr.

He walked out, staring at the pile of bodies for a moment.

“Gotcha.” Hunter whispered. He pulled the trigger.

The bullet flew through the air, sinking into the weak flesh of his knee. The same knee Athena had damaged when she had escaped this place as a child.

His groan echoed through the air as he grabbed onto his leg, all the veins and muscles in his neck exposed as he grit his teeth. Hunter watched him squirm for a moment before his finger caressed the trigger again. The bullet sunk into the opposite leg.

“The pain tolerance in this guy is crazy.” Hunter whispered to himself before letting out a long sigh. “Alright, enough playtime.”

The final shot flew through the air, sinking in the flesh between his eyes.

 

 

30 Days- 4. Day One: Yosemite Valley

The smell of bacon, waffles and fresh coffee floated through the air. It drifted under my blankets and danced around under my nose. Rolling over with a moan, I reached out beside me. My hands grasped around on the empty bed.

Exhaling slowly, I rolled over and poked my head out from under the blankets. My eyes watched the digital numbers on my clock as they slowly changed. I turned it off when the numbers read 4:00am long before the  alarm was scheduled to sound. Throwing my feet to the floor, I got up and slowly walked down the hall. My fingers ran through the mess of my curly pixie cut as I trudged over to the kitchen.

Ruby looked over her shoulder at me with a glowing smile. She was wearing a pair of my jeans and a plaid button down, her red hair pulled back in a messy bun on top of her head, shoes already on. “Amazing, you’re up.” Walking over, she put a plate on the table and smiled at me before bringing over a mug of coffee.

Turning, I looked at the two backpacks by the front door of my apartment. “What’s all that?”

“We’ll talk while we eat to save time.” Sitting across from me, she poured syrup all over her waffles and bacon before sipping her coffee. Reaching into her back pocket, she pulled something out and put it on the table between us.

Picking up the envelope, I pulled out the tickets inside. “Fresno, California.” I looked at the tickets for a few moments. “Why are we going to Fresno?”

“We’re not. We’re just passing through. We are going to Yosemite Valley.”

“Yosemite Valley.” I remembered the scenic place from the screen saver I had for five months.

“We leave for the airport in less than an hour.” Shoveling a couple of pieces of bacon into her mouth, she looked at me. Her face was light, like yesterday hadn’t happened. “I am assuming you don’t mind missing work, since you were planning on being dead today.”

Pursing my lips, I shook my head. “Nope.”

“Amazing. So eat up, you can squeeze in a shower before we head out.”

We ate in silence, although every time I looked over at her, she had a comforting smile on her face. Getting up, I put my plate in the dishwasher and walked past her out of the kitchen. “Ruby, why are we going to Yosemite Valley?”

“Sometimes when you are surrounded by darkness, the only thing to do is search out some light.”

—–

Standing with my toes in the water, I looked up at the beautiful mountains that seemed to surround us. It was like a dream, or a painting the way the water reflected the trees and mountains. I breathed in the fresh air; letting it fill me up completely as I closed my eyes and let my head fall slowly back.

Ruby took my hand in her own, linking her fingers through mine as she stood beside me.

We didn’t say anything; we just stood there in silence.

I was no fool; I knew what Ruby was trying to do. She was trying to give me a reason to live. I was not defiant; I was not so set on ending my life that I wouldn’t let any happiness in. I would take all the happiness I could get.

I would follow Ruby around the world if that were what she wanted. As much as she wanted me to live, I still wanted a little bit of her to rub off on me. I wanted to find the light she kept going on about.

I lived my life drowning in a darkness that overwhelmed me, it sunk deep down into my skin, and filling me with a pain I couldn’t describe but felt with every breath I took. All these years, I wanted someone to reach down, to pull me out of the darkness and into the world. Maybe this was when it would happen.

As much as I needed to die, I also wanted to find a reason to live.

That was why I gave her 30 days. That was why I was here, in Yosemite Valley.


“You know, there are two types of people. There are the kind of people who are surrounded by darkness, walking through tar their whole life. And there are those who are flooded with light, rainbows paving their way. Sometimes both can seem overwhelming. What you need is to find your opposite, balance yourself out to make it all seem bearable.”

Looking out at the beautiful world around me, I felt the darkness ebb slightly away. Suddenly I felt light surround the darkness around me, trying to fight its way in. It was slight, but it was there. Strong and forceful.


There were years of darkness to get through, I wasn’t confident it would work. The company made it worth the journey of trying to figure it all out.

Smiling at her, I nodded. “So, Yosemite Valley.”

“Yosemite Valley. Can’t you feel the light here?”

Nodding, I tightened my grip on her hand. “Yes. I actually can.”

Too Important To Love

In three days, she was going to be seventeen.

Birthdays had never really meant much to her. When she was younger, it had seemed sad. Her mother and father were masquerade as perfect parents with these happy faces painted on as they took her out to dinner to celebrate what she knew now for sure was one of their biggest mistakes.

Her.

It wasn’t a depressing thought she used to keep herself down, she was fine with it. Her parents had been full of lust and too young to know that was all it was. He was oblivious to just how sick she was and how mentally unfit she was to belong to anyone. Her mother just wanted to belong to someone, regardless of the consequence.

Since she had moved in with Vincent and Harrison, she had learned they made a huge deal out of birthdays. There were surprises, and a ridiculous amount of gifts and money being spent and they would block whole weeks out of their calendar to celebrate one another.

It was sweet, in a way. She would enjoy it more if she got to participate in their celebrations without them doing the same for her.

Harrison hopped onto the couch, putting his head in her lap as they watched TV. “So, have you been thinking about what you want for your birthday?” He asked her, trying his best to seem nonchalant.

Vincent had been away on a business trip. Whenever he had to go away, he usually hired someone to watch over them, but since Vincent had turned sixteen, he had trusted them to be alone in the apartment and had the doorman and security check in periodically.

He was expected to return the evening of the day before her birthday.

“Nothing.” She said absent-mindedly, watching the romance movie that was on TV.

Groaning, he rolled over on his side to watch. “Why do you watch this nonsense?”

“They are pretty predictable.” She nodded. “But who doesn’t want to believe you can find love no matter the situation?”

Harrison looked up at her. “You don’t even go on dates. How are you supposed to find love?”

Sparrow lifted her shoulders. “What’s the point of dating? According to your mother we are already betrothed.” She joked.

“If our lives were a romance movie, we would already be in love with on another. We just haven’t realized it yet.” He smiled up at her. “Do you love me, Sparrow?”

Running her hand slowly down his cheek, she looked into his eyes. “I do. Forever and always I do, but I didn’t realize it until this very moment. Kiss me!” She pursed her lips and made smoothing noises at him.

He pushed her face away. “Stop!” He laughed, rolling off the couch.

Sparrow laughed hysterically when he rolled into the coffee table, shaking all the contents on top of it and spilling her soda.

“Ouch!” He moaned, pushing himself up to his knees. Looking up at her, he frowned, rubbing at the side of his head. “Do you see what you did?”

“Hey, I didn’t do anything but confess my love and affection for you. I didn’t think you were going to be such a baby about it.” She playfully rustled his hair.

Moving his head out of reach, he got to his feet and sat beside her. “I am not a baby.”

She snorted at him. “Whatever you say, Harry.”

“So there is no one you are crushing on right now?” He asked her once he settled back on the couch.

Sparrow shook her head. “No one that interests me. You know, you are one to make fun, but you don’t really date anyone either.”

Thinking about it, Harrison frowned. “Yeah, no one really interests me either.” He was quiet for a while, sitting with her as they watched the movie.

Reaching out, he took her hand and held onto it in his lap as they watched.

It was comfortable, and Sparrow slid down to enjoy the movie and the company.

“You should only have relationships with people you don’t really care about.” Harrison said finally. “People you aren’t afraid to lose.”

Her brow creased.

“When you fall in love with someone you are actually afraid to lose, when it all doesn’t work out, you end up losing the most important person in your life. That is why we would never work, I love you more than I’ve ever loved anything, and if anything ever happened between us and we broke up, I would want to shut you out so completely. I’d end up losing the only person I had ever truly let into my heart.”

He didn’t look at her then, and she was glad for it because her eyes started to fog over. Harrison was the most important person in her life besides Vincent. He was the person who showed her she could be loved.

There was so much truth to his words. She was the same way. She shut down when she was hurt, closing herself off from the rest of the world.

Falling in love with Harrison would be losing him.

Squeezing his hand, she cleared her throat. “So I guess it’s a good thing we don’t plan to fall in love.”

 

Judging Character

“Jesus, that was awkward.” Sparrow let out the breath she had been holding in. She felt as though she had dived into the depths without an oxygen tank, only to have to struggle to the surface, unsure of whether or not she would get there in time.

A waitress with wide hips walked up with a smile on her lips. She placed the stack of pancakes between them and filled their two mugs with coffee before winking at them and walking away.

Vincent sat back, cupping his black coffee between his hands. He watched as Sparrow shovelled four pancakes onto her plate and then smeared butter over the steaming pile. The aroma was intoxicating, but he was more interested in the company and conversation than the food.  “I was hoping to spare you. I hadn’t seen him in a number of months and was sure he would still be in Paris with Meredith. She is opening a new gallery and I couldn’t imagine her letting him out of her talons while she is so stressed.”

The thought of a stressed Meredith strutting around barking orders at people caused a chill to run down her spine. “Jesus.” She repeated.

There was something in the way Vincent’s eyes watched. If he were looking at a client, his eyes were powerful. They exuded confidence and demanded respect. When he looked at his son, there was question. His eyes shone with the curiosity of someone seeing something for the first time. When he looked at Meredith they were practically seething. She often wondered what his eyes looked like when he first saw her, when he used to love her.

When Vincent looked at her, they seemed to glimmer with millions of unspoken words. His eyes became the clearest night sky lit with billions of stars reflecting off clear waters.

She often thought about his eyes when she missed him. On a low day, she would wonder if those eyes would make a difference to her day.

His eyes stole a glance at her from across the table as he added a little cream to his coffee. As he stirred it slowly, he began the conversation that was trying to claw it’s way out of his mouth. “Rachel,”

Rolling her eyes Sparrow moaned and threw her hands up dramatically. “Vincent… no.”

“Come now, humor me.” He stared at her, letting few moments pass before trying again. “When you first came to live with us, and I was going through old cases I would often ask your opinion. You were such a wonderful judge of character.” Placing his mug on the table, he rested his open palms on each side of it. “So?”

“Are you just going to keep asking me until I answer you?” She chewed on her pancakes before shifting her weight on the vinyl bench of her booth.

The corner of his lips curved up. “Time doesn’t always change things.”

Raising her brow, she couldn’t help but smile back at him. If there was one thing she was sure nothing would ever change, it was how stubborn Vincent was. “Maybe it’s changed my judge of character.” She teased him.

The corner of his eyes wrinkled as he sipped at his coffee. He was doing that thing where he only smiled with his eyes. That was one of her favourite things about him.

Sighing, Sparrow put down her fork and knife and leaned back. She rolled her head around on her neck to ease some of the tension before waving her hands out before her. “Jesus, alright, alright. I don’t know what you expect from me, I only met this woman for a few minutes and I have no idea about their history together.”

“But you have already formed an opinion of her, haven’t you?” He urged.

This whole situation was odd to her. Vincent and Harrison always had the perfect relationship. If Vincent didn’t like the relationship between Harrison and a girl he had chosen, he would tell him and usually Harrison would be swayed by his father’s opinion. It seemed like the world they had together was a house of cards, and it had all come tumbling down when she had walked away from it all.

The friendship she had thought would be everlasting between Harry and her had all but disappeared, like waking from a dream. Her father figure, Vincent, had been pushed away to make everything easier for her, and the dynamic between Harrison and Vincent seemed as broken as the one between her and Harrison.

She couldn’t help but crease her brow as she looked at Vincent. Folding her hands on the table in front of her as she looked at him, she decided to weigh in on the overall situation before zoning in on Rachel specifically. “Well, it would seem that she is someone more suited to what Meredith wants, then for what Harrison or even you would want. She had a very expensive purse on her arm, her nails were freshly done, as was her hair, all her clothes seemed to be bought from high end boutiques. I would guess she is someone Meredith hooked Harrison up with from some type of snooty club.”

Vincent nodded.

“Now you said you and Harrison don’t keep in touch anymore. That wouldn’t be your choice so I am guessing he never left Paris when he fled…” She stopped, not wanting to touch base on their relationship and how it all fell apart. Clearing her throat, she continued, “But you seemed to know her well enough when you saw her there. He called you.” Her eyes narrowed. “With doubts.”

“This is exactly why I asked you for your opinion of her.” He stated. “He called me about three months ago and told me about how serious their relationship seemed to be growing, with Meredith’s urgings of course. The two of you are no longer teenagers, and she wants Harrison married and with children sooner rather than later. He called me to discuss… reservations.”

“Because he feels she is interested more in the King status than in the relationship itself.” It wasn’t a question.

“Precisely.” His eyes searched her face. “If you were to guess why she would be so interested in marrying Harrison after merely six or so months, what would be your reason for it?”

Normally she would say money, but it was clear by looking at the woman that Rachel already had that. However there was something so desperate about her when she had marched in, something so broken about the way she had looked at Sparrow, assuming they were having an affair. The King name was something a lot of women sought, and there was only one.

Harrison.

She didn’t have very long to figure the woman out, but she would be lying to Vincent if she told him she didn’t have an opinion. Throwing her head back, she wished they weren’t talking about all of this, but she knew she owed him her opinion if that was what he wanted from her.

“I don’t know much about her to judge on her motives, but I know enough about Harrison to know he isn’t happy. He doesn’t love her.”

Frowning, Vincent nodded. “That was my thoughts too. As I’ve said, I’ve had little chance to discuss his relationship with him. Meredith keeps him too close.”

That too was disconcerting. She would have to touch base on that later.

Reaching over, Vincent covered Sparrow’s hand with his own. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“Being such a great judge of character.”