Location: Castella Residence – Richmond, Virginia
Meghan walked out of the bathroom, wrapped in a white towel that hung loosely over her breasts and stopped just below her hips. She shook her head, dislodging hidden water droplets from her hair and promptly crashed on the bed. John Buchanan’s funeral was in two days and she was still not sure if she wanted to go. John had been her best friend and as much as she wanted to be there to say goodbye, she also needed to stay alive. She realized now, that he had entrusted a task to her, and she was determined to complete it. John would understand if the goodbyes were a little late.
Meghan rolled on her plush king sized bed and flipped open her laptop. She took in her room as the laptop powered on. Its creamy white walls were splashed with the red and violet drapes of curtains, covering the large windows on opposing walls. A simple but quaint chandelier hung from the center of the ceiling, its yellow lights adding to the golden luster of the room. She got into a sitting position and slipped under her duvet, placing the laptop on her laps. Meghan found herself taking in and appreciating her surroundings a lot more these days. Maybe it was the shock of losing such a close friend and colleague. Maybe it was the fear of losing her own life. Whatever it was, Meghan was caught in a whirlwind of reflection. She had taken an indefinite leave from work in order to regroup, and as she typed away at her laptop, she didn’t know if she’d ever regroup.
Meghan’s phone chirped beside her. It showed an incoming call from Victor. She looked at it for a while. Victor had been such a sweetheart since the assassination of John Buchanan. Even though he had been in France all through, he always made sure to call her and find out how she was doing and where she was. Yet for all his support, her mind and heart raced towards one place – a frozen capsule of time from her past. She answered the call.
“Hey, baby.” As she answered, she realized how tired her voice sounded.
“Yeah, I’m just a bit… out of it. Laying down on the bed… wishing you were here.” She continued.
“I know. I’ll get some rest soon. I love you. Goodnight.”
Meghan ended the call and sighed. She turned back to her laptop screen and typed in the keywords as she had done so many times before.
The browser turned up over a hundred results pages but none of them gave her any meaningful clues to follow. There were more than a few Michael Stantons around. Meghan went to page four as she always did and clicked on a link which listed army recruits for the year 2027. It was the only year in which a Michael Stanton appeared on the recruitment list. It was also the year she hated the most. As usual, the name was among the list of recruits. What baffled her was she could see the other members’ profiles, but every time she clicked on Stanton’s link, it took her to an access denied page or told her the page was broken. It was maddening. It could just be another Michael. Meghan leaned back on the bed’s headboard and let her mind wander through the undulating waves of time, back to that year she hated the most.
A tall, lean and scraggly boy shivered and cried while holding on to a concrete boulder. He shot a young blonde a painful glance as he wiped tears from his face, smearing his cheeks with dust, as he did.
“So… you… you’re leaving, MeMe?!! Just like that? Why?” The tears were a stream now.
The blonde girl remained perfectly calm. Only her eyes betrayed a hint of the pain she felt, but she knew he would not see it. He was too disheveled to.
“Trust me Miki, this is the best path for the both of us.” She looked at the dashing man who sat in the car behind her.
He had a handsome, chiseled face and fairly long dark hair. He had been her confidant, her companion and their savior for the past eight months. Miki did not know it though. How could she tell him that despite his great intentions, despite his good heart, he couldn’t save her… or them?
“This is the best path?!!! MeMe?!! Did you ask me how I felt about this before taking your decision for us? Can you… even… trust him?! We are at war!! I can protect you!!” He sounded hysterical.
“Did you protect Stevie? How about Hank? Lea? Miki we are seventeen and we will all die if we stay together.”
“Meg?” The man in the car called.
“I know, Victor… Just… gimme a sec okay?”
She turned back to glance at him and he smiled and nodded.
That’s what I need. That sort of maturity and assuredness. She thought to herself before walking to meet Miki and taking him behind the boulder.
“Stop Miki!” Her firmness startled him into jumping. “I need you to be strong okay? I promise you, you’ll be fine. But I’ve got to go now.”
“Then just go!!! I’ve always been there for you, MeMe. I’m no soldier. I don’t know how to fight and I don’t have money. I lost my family just as you did! But I’ve never failed you. I’ve protected you! I asked you to trust me! I’d die for you!!”
“That is exactly what I don’t want. If we continue like this, you will die for me. I don’t want you dead. I want you to live, Miki.”
The boy had looked at her with those steel grey eyes she loved. The tears were an endless line of silver on either side of his cheek.
“Being dead and being without you are the same, MeMe.”
MeMe had stared at him before slowly moving close and locking lips with his. It was a slow, sensuous kiss. Their tongues explored every corner of their mouths, fondling and tickling each other. She playfully sucked on his bottom lip and closed her eyes as she imagined all her love and tenderness flowing to him. Then she tasted the salt from his tears and kissed the line of tears up to his eyes.
“I have to go now Miki.” She said, pulling back. “Goodbye.”
“No! MeMe… Wait!!!”
She broke into a run and scrambled into the car, with Miki hot on her trail. He got to the door, just as it shut and was locked. He was screaming maniacally.
“MeMe!!! Please!!! Don’t do this to me! Please don’t go!!!”
The car started to pull away, but he ran after it with all the strength he could muster.
The car hadn’t pulled away far enough for her to miss the sound she heard next. The primal scream sent a chill to her very soul and when she looked through the rear window she saw her Miki collapse into a pile of rubble beneath him.
Meghan choked back tears as her eyes shot open. She had fallen asleep while reminiscing. She glanced at her system clock. It told her the time was 1:00am in the morning. She sighed and pulled a pillow to her chest.
Fifteen years, Miki. Are you alive? Where are you out there in the world?
Meghan reached into her bag and pulled out the card the strange girl had given her two days ago. It was a local number, registered in Virginia. At this stage, anything was worth a shot. She picked up her phone and took a deep breath, before dialing the number.