We fall into an awkward silence. I stare at her while she stares at me. Not able to stand the silence any longer, I blurt out, “I’m not sorry I ran. I’ll do it again and again ‘til I speak to my father. It’s a simple request, and if you’re really protecting me, then it shouldn’t be an issue.”
Boo looks apologetic. “I’m sorry, Deedee. It’s not my choice. And I know it means nothing to you, but I promise you that there’s no one better to protect you than Nox. I’ve worked with my fair share of people and he has the best success rate, regardless of the mission.”
I stare her down. “What would you do if you were me?”
Her eyes sparkle as she smiles slyly. “I’d run.”
Wow. I’m completely stunned by her honesty. She opens her mouth to speak when she looks past me and quickly sits up. She moves to stand by the bed and I look up at her. “He’s behind me, isn’t he?”
She doesn’t say a thing but she looks sorry. Without a word, she leaves me lying on the bed with Nox at the door. He doesn’t say a word and neither do I. I refuse to turn around and look at him. The silence becomes thicker and thicker until I hear a loud thump followed by creaking. My curiosity gets the better of me and I turn.
I don’t believe it!
He’s brought up a rocking chair and maneuvers it in a way that completely blocks the doorway. He sits down, rocking himself gently and remains silent. His cool eyes dare me to protest.
Oh, you mothertrucker!
The message is clear.
I’ve lost what little freedom I had after my little stunt. My eyes narrow and I spit, “I hate your guts.”
Nox nods slowly. “Good. That’ll make my job easier.” My eyes turn to slits and he says cheerfully with a cruel smirk, “Goodnight, Delilah. Sweet dreams.”
Lifting his hand, he flicks the light switch and I throw up the covers and lay underneath them, making as much noise as I can to note my displeasure. Sitting up, I grit my teeth and give my pillows the beating of their lives. Throwing my head back down with a whoosh, I stare up at the ceiling and silently imagine what I’d like to do to Nox right now.
The rocking chair squeaks for a millisecond and I find my opening. “Sssshhhh!”
Nox sighs, “Go to sleep, Lily.”
I silently scoff. “You can’t tell me what to do.”
“Yes, I can.”
“No, you can’t. You think you can but you can’t. It’s an illusion.”
And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The rocking chair creaks to a halt and he states, “You need to grow the fuck up, lady. Stop acting like a goddamn child.”
Immediately, I hiss, “You leave me no choice! I don’t know if a thing you say is true and I really don’t feel like I’m being protected right now. I’m going crazy not knowing about my family. If you’d even let me call my sister-”
He cuts me off, “Not happening.”
“I’ll sneak out again.”
“Then you’ll sleep with me from now on. Good luck with the whole spy-versus-spy thing.”
Well shit. I don’t want Nox to be my bed buddy.
Silence envelops us both. The dark is comforting. Just as my mind wanders, Nox asks quietly, “Do you have a death wish?” I don’t answer and he goes on, “Someone wants you dead and your father paid a lot of money to make sure you’d stay safe. So I relax a little around you because, hey, you seem decent. And you try to sneak out, creepin’ around like a fucking secret agent and doing a really shitty job of it, too.”
My mind is stuck on the part where he thinks I’m decent.
He sighs wearily, “Do you have any idea what could’ve happened? Do you know what happens if you die?” My eyes water. I don’t say a word but Nox implores, “Think of the consequences for fuck sake. Think of your family. How would they feel?”
Tears streak past my temples. Nox asks quietly, “Do you know what it would do to me?”
My heart skips a beat.
I quietly cry. I just want to forget about this whole thing. Maybe if I go to sleep, I’ll wake up at home and this will have all just been a dream, like Dorothy returning from Oz.
He clears his throat. “Never lost someone on my watch before. If something happened to you, I’d spend the rest of my life wondering what I could’ve done differently, that would’ve kept you alive. Wounds like that…wounds to the heart…they leave ugly scars that never fade.” Then he almost whispers, “I’m sorry I pulled your hair. I panicked and I did what I had to keep you from making a huge mistake. Your safety is everything.” Clearing his throat once more, he states, “It won’t happen again. Get some sleep.”
It’s then that I make the decision to never run away from Nox.
Using the sleeve of my sweatshirt, I wipe away my tears and snot and settle deeper into the bed. I breathe deeply and exhale slowly.
I fall asleep thinking I’m going to do what I can to make the best of this situation.
I wake feeling awful. My face is puffy and my eyes are sore. I’m sure they’re a nice shade of red to match my mortification about last night’s stunt.
Turning, I look to the door and see that Nox is gone.
Good. That would’ve been creepy to wake up to.
Staying in bed seems like a good idea. I pull the covers up over my head and lay in my little cocoon of make believe. In this cocoon, I can be anywhere I want. Anywhere in the world. Hell, I won’t even restrict myself to the world! Neverland, Wonderland, and the moon are all great places too.
All those places sound good but my mind keeps taking me back to my family.
The covers fly off of me and Rock stands there scowling down at me with both hands on his hips. “Anyone ever told you you’re nuts?”
I nod slowly in agreement and his face softens marginally. “Well, you are. Fucking mamaluko. Don’t even think about doing that again, Lily. It was a shithead move.” Running a hand through his hair, he sighs then asks, “Hungry?”
Not in the slightest.
Sliding out of bed, I put on the robe that hangs at the back of my door and I walk with Rock down to the kitchen to find Boo already behind the stove making scrambled eggs. I haven’t eaten much in the last two days and I know I should be hungry but I’m really not. I’m sure this has something to do with the events of the last few days. The thought of doing something so mundane like enjoying a meal makes my stomach turn. Boo turns and smiles, “Hey D, just making some breakfast. I know you’ve gotta be hungry.”
Not wanting an argument, I simply nod and she fills a plate with eggs, bacon, and toast. It looks great but I pick at it.
It’s freakin’ bacon. I love bacon.
I look up in time to see Rock and Boo having a silent conversation with their eyes. They both turn to me and immediately know they’re busted. Rock urges softly, “C’mon, Lily. Eat, babe.”
Moving food around with my fork, I make a show of forcing a small amount of eggs into my mouth. The eggs are soft and easy to swallow. I fear the bacon won’t go down as easily. Pushing my plate forward, I whisper, “Please, excuse me.” Without waiting for an answer, I stand on weak legs and take the long walk back up to my room.
Being happy here is going to be harder than I thought. I make a stop at the library and hope that my love of all things books will help me out of this hard time. Choosing some classics, I hold them tight to my chest and walk back to my room.
When I step out into the hall, I see Nox at the opposite end. We both stop walking and stare each other down. He eyes the books I clutch to my chest as if they were made of solid gold. I lower my chin to my chest and walk to my room. Being petty, I shut the door with a light slam. My smartass retort already planned, I wait for an angry Nox to throw it open with threats of breaking it down.
But he never comes.
How I could fuck up a job so quickly is beyond me.
“You fucked up, bro.” I look up to find the doorway to my office filled with two-hundred pounds of stupid. “Shouldn’t have put your hands on her.”
I know this. I shouldn’t have. I fucked up. Bad. When you got trust issues with your protected, you got issues. Period. Not being able to stay silent any longer, I type away at my laptop and tell him distractedly, “I apologized already.”
Rock pushes off from the doorframe and sits in the chair across from me. “You didn’t see her this morning, man. She’s thinking about it. Thinking too much. Why not let her speak to her dad for a minute? Or the sister? Fuck, even her mom! Just give her something.” I glare at my friend as he appeals, “Anything, man. She’s fallin’ apart.”
Rock has sisters, and being Italian , he was extremely protective of them. He hates to see a woman in pain of any kind. You would never guess it to look at him but the guy wears his heart on his sleeve. We met on the day of my first mission. It was his first mission, too. When he introduced himself to me, I thought he was gonna be useless. No way could a guy that smiles and jokes as much as he does be a valuable ally on the field.
How wrong was I?
Not fifteen minutes in, we’re under attack and the other members of our unit are dropping like flies. For a spilt second, I panicked and lowered my weapon to look at the destruction surrounding me. By the time I realized I had someone at my back, it was too late. I threw my arms up in surrender when the guy was taken out.
Never seen someone do a complete one eighty like that. I swear he’s got multiple personalities. He can be your best friend, your worst enemy, a philosopher, and a comedian all rolled into one.
Rock urges, “C’mon, man. It’s just a phone call.”
Typing away, I throw him an aloof, “Not happening.”
Shaking his head, obviously disappointed in me, he stands and leaves my office. As soon as he leaves, I lean back in my chair with a sigh.
Should’ve never taken this job.
Three days. It’s been three days since my escape attempt and I’m beginning to feel like a caged animal. Well, that’s not true. Not entirely true anyway.
I feel like that white, glowing alien from the movie ‘Cocoon: The Return’, who gets taken to that lab by the ocean and gets tested, but because he’s taken so far away from what’s normal to him, his health starts to decline and he loses his glow.
Yeah. That’s a pretty accurate explanation.
I’m an Antarean who’s lost its glow.
I haven’t been able to stomach much more than a handful of food each day. I’m depressed. I know it. It’s like going from one prison to another. Transferred, really. I feel weak. And alone. And not at all myself. Being helpless is a shitty feeling. The smallest things become overwhelming.
Nox comes to my room each night, places the rocking chair in my doorway, and watches me sleep. As if I’m going to try to escape again. I don’t have the energy to even try.
I’m so very tired.
Rock and Boo take turns trying to get me to eat. I can see they’re worried. I wish I cared enough to do it to make them happy. At least they treat me like a human. Not like Nox. He treats me like a prisoner.
It’s hard not to laugh around Rock. He’s such a clown. He always has a joke to tell or is doing something so seriously ridiculous that you can’t help but laugh at him. Last night, he tried to dry his socks in the microwave.
Then Boo yelled at him. She told him the oven works better.
I have no idea who I’m living with.
They aren’t exactly bad people. Now that my fear of them has worn off, I can see they aren’t all bad. They’re determined, though. Since the night I tried to run and Boo had that little talk with me about there being no better person to protect me than Nox, I’ve been torn.
My head tells me not to trust them, but my heart begs me to take a chance. I haven’t had friends in a long time. And hanging out with Rock and Boo…it almost feels like friendship.
Nox lurks in the shadows of the background. A ghostly figure of apparent protection. Boo and Rock force me out of my room and into the living room to watch TV with them. And there he’ll be, sitting at the breakfast bar, typing away on his laptop, looking over at us when he thinks no one is watching.
But I’m watching. Always watching.
What the hell is his deal?
Boo and Rock will talk, well, they’ll argue and I’ll listen, while Nox peers over at us through furrowed brows. They always try to include me in their conversations…well, arguments, but I don’t have a lot to say these days.
Nox bumped into me yesterday and I teetered, he steadied me by placing his large hands on my hips. I muttered quietly, “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there.” And he looked at me like I’d lost my damn mind. Sometimes, I think it might be true.
Losing my mind, that is – very slowly.
So, here I am, lying in bed at two in the afternoon, trying not to misplace any more of my already fading mind. Not even reading is helping.
My stomach is in a constant clench, my body rigid, my head pounding, my teeth gritted. Tension has me strung tighter than a bow.
A knock on the doorframe brings me out of my head space. Lifting my head quickly, my vision swirls and I place a hand to my forehead to steady myself. Shaking my head a little, I see Boo stand there wearing a worried expression. “You okay, Deedee?”
“Fine, thanks. Just a little tired.” I answer quietly.
“Not sleeping well?”
Sleep? What is that? Running a hand through my knotted hair, I say, “Ah, no. Not so much. What’s up?”
Boo holds out a plate stacked with sandwiches, potato chips and fruit on it. It looks great but my stomach immediately tightens. Looks like this will be another wasted meal.
Smiling a completely forced smile, I tell her, “Thank you. It looks great.”