by Michelle Glassley
Eva tuned out her brother Jason’s monologue as they stepped out of the diner and headed back toward her office, knowing that he didn’t expect a response. No, he was as bored as she was of their constant companionship over the past month. She lagged a half step behind him as she scanned the zone from knees to shoulders ahead of her. The strike zone. That’s where it would be.
She had waited the promised year and a day, waking this morning with equal parts anticipation and trepidation. Would Damian come? Had he survived on the run, and if so, had he been counting down the days as she had? For the hundredth time, she wished she knew who and what he was running from, though she knew it was safer that she didn’t.
The sight of the tattered yellow ribbon tied to the subway railing stopped her in her tracks, her heart pounding. Damian had come.
Jason wasn’t as oblivious as she’d thought. “What is it?” he asked, turning around.
Eva touched the scar on her left temple and feigned an expression of the excruciating pain that was so often real enough. “Headache.” She rummaged in her purse, came up with nothing, then looked toward the drug store across from where the ribbon fluttered in the April breeze. “I forgot my ibuprofen,” she said, wincing from the imaginary pain. She gestured to the bench under the drug store window where they sometimes sat together, eating ice cream bars. “Sit. I’ll be right back out.” The lie cut her to the core; he had put his life on hold for her, coming when she had disappeared without a trace, then staying with her ever since she’d awakened on the floor of the bus station with no memory of the week she’d been gone, and only the scar on her temple and a mysterious tattoo on her forearm to show for it.
Eva breathed a sigh of relief as Jason sat and pulled out his phone, eyes already glued to the screen. Inside, she turned down the first aisle and stopped. Guilt tugged at her heart as she turned off her cell phone and stashed it behind a package of diapers. How could she do this to Jason? He was the only family she had. Maybe she should wait and slip away later. But what difference would it make? He hadn’t let her out of his sight for more than a few minutes since her return. Maybe she should just tell him where she was going. He and Damian had been good friends growing up… no. Damian’s parting words echoed in her head: No one can know we still care about each other. No one.
That sealed it. She turned and headed for the back door, which opened onto an alley that had been dolled up with flower boxes and wooden benches. A worn pair of blue Keds lay under one of the benches across the way, facing to the right. She turned that way hurried down the alley, looking for a newspaper. There it was, wedged between the slats of yet another bench. Lucky number seven. She turned to that page and found an address penciled in the bottom margin, tore it out and replaced the newspaper.
So close now, but this was the most dangerous part. She glanced back down the alley to assure herself that Jason wasn’t following, then opened her purse and pulled out the gun she’d started carrying with his blessing since her return. He carried one too, and they’d even bonded at the practice range. For the love of God, why couldn’t she remember what had happened to her during that missing week? No time to dwell on that now. She tucked the gun into the waistband of her jeans at the small of her back. She would shoot anyone who tried to hurt Damian.
The address was easy enough to find, an apartment on West 52nd Street. She stepped up to the door and rang the buzzer for number 304, looking into the camera. She heard a click behind her as the door unlocked, disappointed but not really surprised that he didn’t say anything. She could hardly wait to hear that soft, velvety voice of his. Aside from the smile that melted her heart every time, it was his best feature.
A sudden burst of adrenaline urged her up the stairs, where she found him waiting for her in the doorway to the apartment. “I’ve been counting down the days,” he said as he took her hand and drew her inside.
She grinned and dropped her purse on a chair in the nondescript living room. “Me too.”
He pulled her into his arms, kissed her, then nuzzled her neck. “I’ve been so alone.”
Well, she could remedy that, at least for a few hours. She laid her head on his shoulder, content for the moment just to feel his arms around her. “Tell me what you did on your birthday.”
He stroked her back, paused as if thinking about it, then said, “It was snowing. I bundled up and went out for a walk in the woods, where it was so quiet I could hear the snowflakes landing. I reached out and caught a perfect one on my glove and wished you were there to see it. When I got back, I made hot cocoa with marshmallows and sat by the fire.”
He held her for moment more, then stepped back and studied her face. He traced the scar with one finger, the question in his eyes. “I don’t know,” Eva said, “I can’t remember a thing about it.” He nodded as he unzipped her jacket and eased it off her shoulders. He tossed it on a chair, then, spotting her tattoo, reached for her forearm and stood staring at it, a puzzled expression on his face.
The ink was black, one word, in Arabic script. It had taken awhile for her to find someone who could tell her what it said, and even then, it didn’t make any sense to her. “I don’t remember getting that, either. Can you read it?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said as he ran his thumb over it. “Abracadabra.”
Abracadabra. In his voice, and his voice only. Powerless to stop herself, Eva reached behind her and pulled out the gun. Horror filled her as she flicked off the safety, raised it and pulled the trigger, all in one smooth motion, faster than she would have believed possible. The shot was so loud in the tiny living room. Eva screamed as Damian dropped to the floor, the bullet hole right in the center of his forehead, his eyes still open, staring in disbelief.
Eva fell to her knees beside him and pulled him into her arms, where she held him, rocking back and forth, tears streaming down her face. “I’m sorry,” she said, over and over again.
No one came. As darkness closed in around her, Eva wiped her tears and eased Damian to the floor. She wished she had some James Bond skills and could go after the bad guys who had done this to her, to him. All she could do, though, was to bury him in secret, robbing them of the satisfaction of knowing that they’d gotten him. Yes, she could do that. For Damian.