This is part of my novel, "What Losing You Did to Me". To start at the beginning, click here. Right now a new section of my book posts every week.
Wow, I'm sore. I feel like I've run a mile and done a bunch of crunches. Then my eyes open, and I blink in the midnight darkness, my ears ringing and my limbs hopelessly tangled in the bedsheets. I've always been a rough sleeper but the last few nights have been particularly taxing.
Someone is banging on my door. That must be what woke me. I hear the muffled sound of my name through the metal. What is going on?
Slowly I ease out of bed, a lone blanket refusing to give up its claim on my foot. It drags across the floor as I make my way to the door. Though the peephole I glimpse Cielen's dark face bent low in the bright hallway light. He bangs again. I groggily pick at my eye, trying to get some of the gunk out, rubbing my hands over my face in hopes of waking myself up more. Blinking with wide-awake-sleepiness, I remove the door stopper and then briefly pause to unravel the magie alarm I'd set up a few days ago.
I crack the door.
"What. Are. You doing here." I mutter, staring at him. I'm surprised to hear my voice come out so slow. Sleep affects the body in weird ways, I guess.
He pauses, like trying to remember his reason.
"Merienge." He says, and is voice breaks. My heart starts pounding faster for some reason, and I realize something is very, very, wrong.
"My sister died yesterday." He finally says. His eyes meet mine and I can see some of my pain mirrored in his face.
The shock of seeing Cielen hurt leaves me speechless. He's always been the one to hold us together in the wilderness. He was a pivotal point in my healing process. Without him I don't think I would ever have had the courage to return and find Aainn. I'd probably be dead. Or worse.
I open the door wider, and he steps in soundlessly. Yet from his words both of us are breaking, breaking, breaking. I relock the door and reset my magie trap with half a thought.
He sits on the bed.
"I should have come with you from the beginning." He starts out, but I stop him.
"No." I say. "I know you had to keep working to provide for your family. Your sisters' medical care is...was...very expensive."
"This is a nice hotel." He says. He glances around, his eyes lingering on my half-eaten cup of ramen noodles from yesterday, old and dry. He looks at me, and I know what he is thinking. I look away.
"Yes, it's nice." I say, trying to change the subject.
"Merienge..." He says.
"Don't start. I have it under control." My words sound more bitter then I thought they would.
Cielen sighs, and lays back on the bed, his arms spread wide. He looks no different then he had 5 days ago when I'd left him at KI Pharmaceuticals to head down here. His black hair and dark skin contrasts the white of my tangled bedsheets even in the dim night light.
"I came to help, you know." He says.
"I know." For a second I pause, trying to reconfigure plans, to work Cielen into the picture. "And part of me is glad you are here. Aainn's family does not know you. You'll be a great help to me."
My response sounds wooden, but actually he will be a great help. He is as skilled with magie as I am. But more then that he knows me. He's only been here a few minutes and he already noticed I was starting to fall apart. I'm surprised to find I missed him. Right now he truly is the only friend I have.
He sits up suddenly at the mention of Aainn. "Did you find him?'
"Yes." I say, and I know he can hear the pain in my voice that I'm trying to hide. Suddenly I want to be alone.
"I'm glad. So whats next?" Cielen's eyes meet mine with determination.
"Capturing him. Next week."
"I'll help." He says. I smile. I know my smile does not meet my eyes, but it's the best I can offer.
"Okay." I say.
His worried face meets mine again. "You've changed." He says. "Your like the Merienge I met 11 months ago."
I don't know what to say to that. It's true. I'm letting everything in and I'm controlling nothing. But I don't know how to stop. After I rescue Aainn I'll have time to fix myself again.
"It's not your fault, you know."
My face is suddenly hot. Not my fault? I'd left Aainn chained to his grandfather like a coward and run in fear from him. Then I'd enjoyed myself for a whole year trying to forget about him.
The guilt is a pulsing, pounding reality across my whole body.
I know that the circumstances were not my fault. But I should have been more wary. I should have known.
"You said that last time." I say.
"Yeah, and it's still true."
I'm not sure I believe him anymore.
Click here for the next part.