Chapter one A Visitor
This had been the third month. The exact date was September 20. Three months. Holy shit. I was surprised by how quickly time passed; or I shall say I was surprised by how much more quickly the time passed than I expected it would. I remembered the first day I got dropped off , I thought my life might just end like this. It was depressing and I was not even exaggerating. Why in the actually hell did I deserve this? When I arrived here, I had nothing but three suitcases, and I was not ready to see a small room with only a wooden bed without any mattresses or comforters.
“What the fuck.” I was not asking a question because it was pointless to question anything by this point.
“Calm down.” Caleb, who was nice enough to call me as soon as I got to the place, said “It’s better than a prison cell.”
“Dude, are you serious?” I was irritated by the fact that I didn’t receive any empathy from him “ This room looks so shitty.”
“Compare to a five-star hotel room,” he paused, which was a habit of him when he tried to emphasize something in his sentence, “ it does look shitty. But at least you have your own bathroom and everything.”
“I don’t even have a TV.” I looked around once more. I felt hopeless.
“Come on, Lily. I have seen people getting sent to places worse than this.”
“Ugh.” I just realized I had nothing to sit on besides that sad-ass looking bed “Why did HE do this to me?”
I regretted as soon as I finished that sentence. Caleb went silent for a second on the other end of the phone. Even without looking at his face, I knew that I just got on his nerve. I was not supposed to say anything like that because of what I had done. I hated myself for still being a little brat when I clearly knew the reasoning of everything in front of me now.
“Lydia.” his voice was deep and stern, “ Just stop all that crap. You know what will come after you mess up. You should be grateful that HE didn’t give you to Aizawa Chisa… This is the lightest penalty HE could’ve given in HIS entire life. I hate to break it to you, but you would’ve ended up million times worse than this if it was not for the work you did for HIM for the past years.”
“I know Caleb.”
“ Sorry, I didn’t mean to scold you like that.”
“It’s okay. I fucked up so I just have to deal with the consequences.” I lowered my head even though no one was there to see.
Then I heard a heavy sign from him. I knew he felt bad for me and I felt bad for him too. On the day which I had to go hear the final decision of my penalty, Caleb was assisting HIM in the office. While I was sitting there, he couldn’t help but glancing at me whenever he got a chance. His stares were burning on my face; and I couldn’t dare to turn my eyes to react to them. Partially because I was terrified of HIM and his decision. But I knew Caleb was just as terrified as I was. He was trying really hard to hold in his fear.
He was scared that I would die.
I mean, it could happen. Anyways, I was sent here, a little town on the edge of the territory. Maybe that description was not accurate enough. This place was far-off that I found it fascinating that there was actually civilization existing around here ( I mean I fell asleep and woke up three times on the car ride here. It was so ridiculous.). It was very solitude as well. There were no real surroundings other than wild plants and natural habitats for probably all kinds of animals. The mountains were connected like sheets of cloth. It was June, and all that could be captured by my eyesight was endless greenery. Three moths later the bright green starts to fade away, lumps of yellow and red have been slowly popping out into the frame.
Three months. I still can’t get over that fact that I am still alive after three months in this stupid place. I guess this proves that I am a well-trained warrior who can survive in every goddamn condition I got myself into.
The first night was hella miserable. My body was sore after riding on a thousand bumpy roads. Then my bed was naked. I had to use my jackets to fake a mattress. My scarves served me as blankets as I slept. I woke up multiple times because those paper-thin walls did nothing but giving free passes to the noises of my neighbor’s radio. The nut-head son of bitch was listening to opera at night. Those screechy high notes the character made when they sang were needles pierced through my ears. I could feel my scalp tighten up out of the pain and my adrenalin went so high to the point that I did a martial art trick to kick my ceiling. I swear to god the whole building was shaking, which made perfect sense because it was the crappiest construction work I had ever seen in my whole entire life. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the whole things just fell apart like that.
It didn’t fall apart. But the opera had stopped ever since.
Now three months later, some things have changed, hopefully for better. I managed to get myself a set of bedding and a few more furnitures for the room. I discovered that if I opened my windows in the afternoon, the sunlight could come into my room right next to my nightstand, which made it really nice to read or just sit and zone out there. What actually helped me get through the first month was the habit of self-entertaining. Looking for any sort of entertainment in this town was more unrealistic than seeking for the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Plus, I was avoiding any human connection as mush as possible. I was unsure whether or not I was completely safe here, which was an useless concern, because the only factor of this punishment was isolation. No one was here to interact with me. It could be seen as a miracle if I bumped into more than one people on the street on the days I fancied to go out. By “go out” I mean getting my laundry done down the street or grabbing little essentials at the corner store. Eventually I created this so-called “daily routine”. I got up at whenever my body decided to wake up because I couldn’t be bother to buy an alarm clock. I did my breathing exercise for a few minutes. I read my book until I got tired of reading. Then I went for a long run. The good thing about this remote place was that nothing would get in my way when I ran. The freshness of morning air flooded into my body. I continued running as far as I could. I was out of breath and sweating when I stopped. After I showered and got cleaned up, I always went to this dinner for breakfast.
This diner was the only place which contained the liveliness. Imagine this whole town was a dessert, this dinner would be the oasis in the middle of it. What a lame metaphor I made… I was trying to say that this little restaurant was the CBD here. It was loud and full of people all the time, which was odd since I haven’t seen these many people walking around any where. It confused me as if those people knew magic tricks which made themselves disappear. Later on I was informed that those we ate here mostly were the members of the family which owned the restaurant. Oh, I forgot to mention that the name of this dinner was so cheesy that I got goosebumps when I first saw the sign of it. It’s called “Mr. W.’s Happy Restaurant with Great Food.” Like come on, who the hell named a restaurant with a dumb name like that? But to honest, the food here was delicious. I would give them points for that.
Anyways, I went eat breakfast (sometimes lunch and dinners) there almost everyday. The waitresses here (weirdly enough they don’t have any waiters) were friendly, or I should say a bit too friendly sometimes. There was this one girl whose name was Bella asked me three hundred questions every single freaking day. And on the first day I ate there, she looked at me straight in the eyes as she handed me the menu.
“ Hi.” I squeezed out the tiniest smile possible.
She didn’t seem to hear me and studied my face as if one of my facial features was situated at the wrong spot.
“You alright?” I asked, which was not a good idea, because instead of responding, she leaned forward and got really close. She glanced me from my chin to the top of my forehead and it felt like she was going to kiss me.
“ Lady, this is too close for comfort.” I was trying to move away from her but the gap between the dinning table at the seat was so tight that I was basically trapped. “What the hell are you doing?!”
She didn’t back off a bit. So I lifted my elbow because I figured it would effective if I hit her. Just as I touched her chest and was about to add more force, a person ran towards my table and yelled: “ Bella, what the hell are you doing?! Stop it!”
Her name was Olivia. She pulled Bella away as soon as she got close enough to the table, which prevented a tragedy from happening.
“Bella, you need to stop that.” she said so as she turned around and apologized to me.
“It’s fine.” I said as I looked up to her.
She was stunning. From a woman’s point of view, she looked absolutely amazing. And yet she was on the fuller side (being beautiful has nothing to do with being skinny), the waitress uniform hugged her figure a bit tightly. She had a rather round face with a delicate chin. Her eyebrows were beautifully curved and long. As she smiled her cheeks went up and her eyes looked like two poodles of rain drops.
I was attracted by the beauty of her for a moment that I didn’t realized that she was still talking to me.
“Oh I’m sorry, what was that?”
“It’s quite alright. I was saying that Bella is my cousin, and she acts like that every time she sees someone new.”
I guess I was the “someone new” in a very long time.
“But,” she continued “ I can’t recall if I have seen you around here before. Are you new here?”
I mean, isn’t it so obvious? But instead of saying that, I just simply replied: “ Yes, I just got here not long ago.”
“Good. Welcome then.” Olivia took out her waiter note pad “What can I get for you today?”
Olivia has been a sever since that day. The one think I liked the most about her was she didn’t ask why I came here. We made casual conversations and never went further than that. I mean we didn’t need to. Most of the time Bella had to jump in and started her “Q&A” sections with me, which I found strangely fun after I got used to it.
Bella: “What’s your zodiac sign?”
Bella: “ Are you a cake person or a pie person?”
Me: “ I don’t like deserts.”
Bella: “ Cherry pie or apple pie?”
Me: “ I said I don’t like deserts.”
Bella: “Iced coffee or hot coffee?”
If it started going on forever, Olivia would stop Bella by pulling her back to the kitchen. But I could still hear her voice behind the curtain: “PB&J or PB&Nutella?!”
“I said I don’t like sweet stuff.”
After recalled all of that, these three months didn’t seem to be that difficult after all. It was better than being killed by Chisa… That woman was a beast. R.I.P to those who got taken by her directly after they fucked up.
I went for a run as usual, and you guessed it, I went to the dinner. I refused to say its name because I hated it that much. I walked down a block and turned to the corner which the restaurant located. Outside of the window I saw my seat was taken by someone. Olivia always saved that seat for me because she knew that I liked at the city view while I was eating. I was a bit bumped to see someone took it but I just assumed that the day might be Olivia’s day off; other waitresses there forgot to save it for me.
As I was walking closer, I got to see the profile of the person on my seat. I knew that face so well that I could recognize it even it got burned into ashes. He didn’t do his hair the usual way today. He led his bangs hanging down his forehead rather than parted and brushed upward. He looked younger and softer this way. But his jawline was so sharp that if he got too close to the window the glass might’ve shattered. So many years ago his face was chubby and his cheeks were squishy like two boiled dumplings. He has matured so much through out the years and now I saw here was a good-looking young man in a Tom Ford suit. He was so captivating even though he was just sitting there quietly.
By any means, I didn’t expect him to be here. But I was happy that he was.
“ What a pleasant surprise.” I said as I walked in.
Caleb looked away from the menu as he heard my voice. “Hey.” he responded “ Olivia said that you always sit here.”
“She’s right.” I sat down at the opposite side of the table so that I could face him. If it was not my illusion, he had gotten a bit slimmer. His almond eyes had a brown tint. I would never know how a person had a job as his could give out the softest glares.
“You look good.” I said. “ This suit fits you well.”
“Thanks.” he nodded slightly “ You bought it for me.”
“Really?” I said so as I sipped coffee “ I don’t remember.”
“You look better.” he was looking at the table when he said so. I knew it was a sign of him being shy whenever he looked down.
I led out a soft laughter. What I had on was a grey sweater and a pair of skinny jeans. I had looked much “better” than this before.
“Did you say that for the sake of saying it or just try to make me feel better?”
“Neither. You actually look better.” he said so softly.
Then we went silent for a while. We hadn’t talked to each other face to face for three months. We were not supposed to. And now there were some things between us that were forbidden to bring up. In other words, we didn’t know what else to say to each other.
“So…” I figured I would start speaking again before the awkwardness killed me “ What brought you here?”
“I had a mission around here.” he said “And I had twenty-four hours of free time. So I figured I would stop here to see if I could bump into you.”
“Bump into me?” By this point the food we ordered got to the table, it distracted us from the conversation for a little bit since it looked so appetizing. After I cut off a piece of pancake, put it in my mouth, chewed, and swallowed it, I continued: “ I am not doing anything interesting at all. You could’ve just walked up to my room and waited there.”
“Yeah I know.” Caleb carefully rolled up his sleeves so his suit wouldn’t get dirty from cutting stuff on his plate, “ But it is still better that I meet you outside.”
“Yeah. It is better.” I paused for a second. It was not easy for him. I knew after I left there was still a shit ton of awful mess he had to help clean up. He also had to be extremely careful because of the relationship he had with me. I was not entirely sure but there was a big possibility that he was under monitor right now. HE had some crazily strict rules about not being connected with punished people. I had read and memorized them since the day one, one could end up dead if things went only a bit ambiguous. “ You know, you probably shouldn’t stop by.”
“ It’s fine” he gave me the first smile of the day. It was so bright and beautiful that my heart hurt a little. “ I came alone, and no one knows you decision anyways.”
“What the hell?”I almost choked on my pancake “ Are you kidding me? I fucked up so badly and no one knows my decision?”
“First of all, you didn’t fuck up that badly.” he put on a serious look on his face, “It’s just…Your position, you know, that matters the most in the situation. I can’t tell you how many people lower on the chart had failures worse than yours. Of course they were dead afterwards. What you did was not a huge deal but it was still bad because you are in a position like this, you know? You were not supposed to have failures like that by this point.”
“I mean, I failed the mission.”
“Yeah, you are supposed to have ineffability.” he said, “Anyways, HE didn’t announce your decision in order to create the fear, especially among the higher positioned folks. Nobody knows how you ended up so they just keep guessing. I bet everyone is assuming the worst scenario possible, they were all freaking out after you left. Now they get that if they fuck up really badly, what is waiting for them next will be fucking miserable.”
“Wow. That’s smart.” I mean, it is so brutal at the same time.
“So, how are you?” he looked at me daringly in the eyes.
“I am dealing with it.”
“No, I mean, HOW ARE YOU?”
For a moment I couldn’t construct a sentence. How am I? I don’t know. I feel like crap maybe? I am bored as hell. I am disappointed at myself because I couldn’t handle my shit better. Like how long have I been in my position? How the fuck did I fail my mission like that? I don’t know, I just don’t fucking know.
I led out a sigh and said: “ I… I am okay I guess. But you know, it won’t be okay for a long time.”
He nodded at me as he understood. I lost my appetite so I asked for the check and left. Then I remembered that I needed to grab my laundry before I went back to my place. Caleb said he would like to join me. So we walked together to the laundry shop.
“ Why is this so fascinating to see?” Caleb pointed at those dryers which were going into a circular motions, and asked with that cute little tone he had. Maybe there was a part of him had stopped growing and remained as a little child.
I bent down to collect my clothes into a pile. Neither of us had done our own laundries growing up. There were nannies available for every chore in the household. Thanks to HIM we were so spoiled that every other kid we knew was jealous of us. When we went to kinder garden, our teachers called us “the little patricians”. Not if it was an irony, but I was guessing it was.“Were you ready to get picked up, little patricians?” She used to ask like this.
Folding up my shirts, I said: “For sure it is. I bet you hadn’t even seen a proper laundry machine before, right? You have never done your laundry in your whole entire life, you little spoiled prince.”
“You are not anywhere better than me.” So many years had passed, he was still fighting with me as if we were still children playing at the patio.
“Hmm. At least I have learnt how to do it now. It’s not that complicated.”
We went silent again. The noises of laundry machines became so loud and it was storm to my eyes. Out of nowhere, I asked: “How is everything back THERE?”
I surprised him. Then he started biting his lower lip—another little thing he did when he was thinking hard. I guessed he was trying to put it as carefully as he could. But I knew in the back of my head that everything was still chaotic. We didn’t get to finish what we wanted to finish. The casualty was brutal. We had lost so much. These were just what I knew by far, I had no idea what to take for a complete recovery.
It was all because I fucked up. Every time when I was reminded of this, I was so ashamed of myself that I could die. I could’ve died.
“You know,” Caleb finally started talking, “ After the shit blew up, it was a hot mess. We lost so many men and arms. But we still have a decent amount of property left, we have arms left too. The thing is we have a lot of ‘stuff’ to do, you know, like ‘cleaning up’.”
“Getting ride of every trackable evidence” was literally what “cleaning up” meant. That was a long-ass progress and we could have more loss later on. It was pretty much as the same as perishing together with your enemy. Goddamn it.
“Jeez.” I mumbled.
“It sucks. But everything started to go steady now. We might need a long time to gain back what we had lost though.”
I nodded, because I couldn’t construct a full sentence now.
“ And…” he paused, “HE is very mad at you. Very.”
“I know…” I stopped what I was doing to look at him, “ I thought he was going to kill me.”
“So did I.” he said quietly.
“Did I get you in any trouble?”
“No, not really.” he shook his head, “Actually HE hadn’t talked to me since the day you were gone. HE is busy sending out orders.”
I stood up straight and picked up my laundry basket.
“You have any plans?” he asked.
“Dude, I have nothing to do around here. I am just gonna go back to my room and chill.”
He smiled at me sweetly, and said: “ Can I check out you place?”
“Hey, I really don’t think you should…
But he interrupted me: “It’s okay. I am here already. I just wanna see where you are staying at.” He was looking into my eyes, or my soul, or both, “Please.”
I couldn’t resit him somehow. On the way to the place there was a liquor store. We both fancied some alcohol so we went in and got a bottle of whiskey. It was a nice day, the sun was hitting us on the back. Our shadows were following us as we walked forward. I looked down and noticed how much taller he was than me.
“ You are tall now.” I said.
“I am always tall.” he said. I was glad we could talk about something lighthearted like this, and I wanted to go with the momentum.
“You were a little bean before.” I said, “ You were shorter than me for a while.”
“But who stopped growing first?” I said so as he smirked at me.
I gave him a middle finger. Meanwhile we were at the building which my room was in. It was a really short walk.
“Woo. It does look crapy.”he said.
“I told you.” I started walking up the stairs, “ And there is this weird neighbor I have who listens to operas on the radio at night…”
We opened the bottle of whiskey as soon as we got into my room. Caleb noticed the pile of books next to my bed.
“Did you read all of those?”he was amazed.
“Yeah. I got nothing to do.”
“Have you even looked around since you got here?” I poured myself I glass of whiskey, “There is literally nothing. Not even a club on the streets. How am I supposed to have fun? You know, no clubs, no parties, no pretty boys, no sex, and no life.”
“Well, I think it is nice here. The view is beautiful.”
“What can you do with beautiful view?” I took sip from my glass, masturbate to it?”
He gave me a disgusted look.
“And you will get tired of the ‘beautiful view’ after you stayed here for three months.”
“At least I am here now.” he swirled the whiskey bottle, “You can get drunk with me tonight.”
“That’s my boy.” I laughed out at ease.
Then we clinked our glasses together as we said “Cheers.”
We drank and talked all night. I hadn’t had any alcoholic drinks for months, so I felt my tolerance were getting low. I got tipsy after a few shots then I was too drunk to function. I carried on for as long as I possibly could util I finally passed out.
The next morning Caleb woke me up and told me he had to leave.
Despite being awfully hungover, I walked him down the stairs.
He was still in that Tom Ford suite looking all flawless. He had this strange capability to look put together no matter what kind of wild shit he did the night before.
I called his name before he took off.
“Yes?” he turned around and looked at me. His eyes were crystal clear, especially when the sun hit them, I could see my own reflection in them as if I was looking into mirrors.
“ Are you disappointed at me?” I asked.
He took a deep breath, followed by a sign.
He finally said: “ I am just glad that you are alive.”
As he walked away, I saw him lifting his hand on his face, but his back was facing me, I didn’t know if he was scratching his nose or wiping tears away from his eyes.