With one final heave, I throw the last of the suitcases into the back of the limousine. “Hey, that’s the last of it!” I yell, panting with exhaustion. Jimmy stands next to the door of the car, holding the door open. He motions for me to get in, looking unhappy about the cold afternoon air.
My teeth chatter uncontrollably as I quickly slam down the hood of the trunk, and jump into the vehicle, willing the heat to warm me up. Jimmy still stands outside with the door wide open, letting in the icy breeze. Impatient, I stick out one of my legs and kick him in the shin. “Hey stupid,” I address him, “close the freaking door, I’m freezing.”
He narrows his eyes, clearly not pleased with my way of asking. His short, dirt-brown hair is messy, sticking up in several places. He’s tall, muscular, has a nice smile, although not at the moment. He’s like the more attractive version of Henry. Cold air continues to wrap around me, eating away the little warmth I had. He still stares at me, waiting.
“Jeez!” I exclaim, rolling my eyes, “Puh-lease.” I spat out, stretching out the syllables in the most sarcastic tone I could manage. A smile of victory spreads across his lips. The door finally closes. A blanket of heat makes me sigh with relief. I hide a brief smile when he walks away from the foggy window.
From the back of the limo, I hear the drivers’ door open and close, Jimmy crawling inside. His head just barely touches the ceiling, his body turning around to stare directly at me.
“So? Where to, tootie fru’?” he asks a little too joyously. “You still have about,” he checks the radio clock, “maybe an hour or so, it’s only four thirty. You need to be back at the place at six, right?” I nod. “So then, where did you want to go, c’mon, I’ll drive you wherever.”
I shrug, “I don’t know, doesn’t matter, I’m perfectly fine being anywhere.” He opens his mouth as if to say something, “No,” I cut him off, “We are not going there.”
Throwing his hands up in the air he shakes his head in disbelieve, “I didn’t even say anything!”
“Eh,” I shrug yet again, “Didn’t have to, I said I’m perfectly fine being anywhere I want to be, not wherever you want to be.” My tongue sticks out for effect, a mischievous grin forming at my lips. He says nothing, only turns away from me stiffly. He turns on the ignition, driving out of the parking lot. Outside my window, the scene moves, white snow rests everywhere, on buildings, cars, it’s a beautiful sight. The color brings me back to unsure thoughts of my dream. “Hey Jimmy.” His head tilts upward to signal I had his attention. “What are your thoughts on floating jellyfish?”
We stop at a red light, Jimmy seems to be snickering. Offended, I growl at him, “Shut-up. Since when is it a crime to be curious?” My arms fold, mimicking a three year old throwing a fit. The light switches green.
“Since when did you become fascinated with flying jellyfish?” He asks me, sounding serious. His expression wasn’t visible from where I sat, but I knew he was grinning with humor.
“It’s floating jellyfish I’ll have you know, and I never said I had a fascination in them, I was just curious on what your thoughts were.”
“Ok and why is that?”
Outside the window, blurred cars slid by. I began to wonder where we were heading.
“Just some weird dream I had.” Suzie comes back into memory, her multi-personality, and color changing eyes clouding my thoughts. “Also, what do you think about little girls who appear insane with bright yellow eyes that changes to a brownish color that then becomes all weird and formal and proper and is extremely persistent on wanting you to go to the movies rather than go to other places in my so called celebrity life?” I snort at how ridiculous the question sounds.
“Hey, are you smoking something?” Jimmy asks casually.
“No. Really, I was just at the theatre right after the performance after Beatty was…” my voice trailed off. I had almost forgotten about her.
“Beatty was what?” he asks, worriedly. “What happened to Beatty?”
“Nothing,” I reply. I couldn’t tell Jimmy she was fired, he would be torn.
“Alright, continue with weird bipolar girl with the color changing mystery please.” Thankful for his kind gesture to avoid the previous topic, I tell him what happened between me and little Miss Suzie. Once I finish, he bursts into laughter.
“And she called you,” he struggles to speak, “she called you, Miss Poetry Sunshine?” I crease my brows together in annoyance.
“Yes?” I grudgingly say. He still laughs.
“That’s priceless. I’ll keep a hold of that one!”
“Ok, is it really that funny? Cause’ I don’t see how.”
He can’t speak anymore. I fear he would eventually lose control of the wheel. To my horror, the car jerks suddenly to the right. “Jimmy! Jesus, calm down!”
Out the window, getting further away, I see the car we nearly crashed into. An older woman gives us a killer look, and before she is completely out of sight, I see her giving us the finger. I shake my head in shame. “That’s it, I’m going to jump out, unlock the door.” As a joke, he obeys; a loud clicking sound alerts me into knowing the door could now be open. Rolling my eyes, I lock it again manually.
“Ok, you never actually gave me your insights on these weird things I told you about,” I point out.
“Oh yeah,” he seemed to have forgotten, his laughing fit was over at last.
“Start with the floating jellyfish, what is that about? Do you think it’s a sign?” Something from outside catches my attention, I look out to see a large looking, Ferris wheel.
“It’s a jellyfish that floats, beats me,” he answers flatly.
“Gee, thanks genius. Alright then, so how about that girl with the color changing eyes?” The conversation begins to appear pointless, we weren’t getting anywhere new.
“I’m pretty sure it was one of those fancy eye contact thingies that change the colors of your eyes. They sell those things everywhere. And the multiple personalities, she’s just flat out insane. Like a certain other someone I know.”
I am not convinced. “Wait,” I watch as we turn out into the parking lot of the London Eye. “Her eyes, they couldn’t have been contact lenses, they transitioned by themselves, and she didn’t take them out or anything. Well, if she was to say wearing yellow lenses. Her hands were nowhere near her eyes, and plus, who wears yellow contacts? It just doesn’t add up. When I looked at those eyes, all I saw was energy and a lot of it too. They were the eyes of a hyper ten year old, and people just can’t have that look in fake contact lenses. After they turned brown, I got a new feeling of, a, it’s hard to describe, like a new woman. Not a young girl anymore, but an extremely formal woman. How does a kid go from bouncing off the walls to being weary of her word choices, and speaking in a new refined tone?”
We come to a stop. Jimmy shrugs uncaringly. “I don’t know, sounds to me like you’re stressing over this funny girl and jellyfish business too much.” He opens his side of the door, and walks out the limo. I watch as he makes a loop towards me. The door opens, he motions for me to step out respectively. “Just relax, have fun alright, Miss Poetry Sunshine?” he smirks.
Giving him a cold smile and eyes that mock, I punch him square in the gut. With a slight “oof”, he laughs, making a side comment on my lack of strength. After I move out of the way, he gently closes the door behind me. Before I can walk off toward the attraction, he grabs my arm and hands me a small white box, a pink bow tied neatly around it.
“What’s this?” I ask, moving the box around in my hands. I move it up to my ear, and give it a slight shake. A small rattle escapes from it. “Oh, are they new earplugs to tune you out? Oh you shouldn’t have,” I tease. He rolls his eyes.
“Ha, ha. Very funny,” he mutters as I give it yet another shake, more forceful this time. “Hey, now, stop. Just open it already.”
Eager to see what rested inside, I untied the bow, clutching it in one of my working hands. With difficulty, I manage to get off what I thought to be hundreds of tiny strips of clear tape. “You think you got enough tape on this, Jimmy?” I ask, handing him the materials. He laughs, watching as I slowly peel back the lid of the present.
I gasp. Inside was a beautiful, golden watch. It was long, slender, and emblazoned around the face of it were thousands of beautifully cut diamonds, reflecting colorful prisms of red, yellow, and blue. The time reads four forty three in delicate print. The numbers curled like letters written elegantly in neat cursive. My hand wraps around it as I pull it out from its’ resting place. Jimmy politely takes it from me, and asks for my arm. I gingerly extend my left hand and watch in awe as he fastens the glorious device around my wrist. It fits perfectly. Smiling, I look one last time at the gift then wrap my arms around him.
“Thank you, thank you,” I say softly, repeating the words over and over, “I love it.” Taking a few steps back, I furrow my brows in confusion. “But, why? It’s not my birthday or anything. What’s the occasion?”
He scratches his head in thought, “Well, I figured, you really needed one, and well, you really seemed down, so I thought this would make you happy.”
I smile; he had been worried about me. “Thank you” I say yet again.
He grins, “No problem.” He takes the now empty box I had been holding, and walks back over to the drivers’ seat. “Hey, I’ll be back around five forty, so keep an eye on the time for me alright?” I nod. With one last chuckle, he bids me farewell, calling me that odd little name Suzie gave me, and drives out the lot.
The watch feels comforting to me, I admire it once more. Feeling cheerier for a change, I begin my walk toward the towering London Eye. In my head I compliment on Jimmy’s choice of destination. Walking past watchful eyes, and murmurs of my name, I locate the beginning of the line, and take my place.
To my dismay, several people crowd around me, asking for autographs and photo shots. Having no choice, I kindly accept the people’s wishes and desires. I’m used to this wide arrange of attention although it sometimes proved to be stressful. These were the moments when I needed some space.
A security guard notices me standing awkwardly in the center of another obsessive crowd. He seems to notice my wish to be left alone to be able to spend a normal day to myself. From the kindness in his heart, he clears the crowd, only to ask for a simple autograph for his daughter in return. Grateful, I thank him, and give him his reward. He offers to escort me to the front of the line, but I kindly decline his offer. It seems rude for me to use my fame to accept special treatment. Pleased with my unwillingness to place myself above the other citizens, the guard, with a humorous chuckle, promises to keep the people in check. Laughing, I give him my condolences.
The line advances slowly after each forever lasting second. The guard kept his word. No one has stepped forward to crowd me, even though I could see how badly they wanted to. The icy breeze stabs at my skin, making me shiver. I find myself constantly checking my new watch. I love how it glimmers in the little sunlight that radiates from overhead, the sky a pale grey. I begin to wonder if it’s going to rain soon. The thought makes me grimace. I wouldn’t want to get hit with cold, freezing water. More so, I didn’t want my watch to get ruined. The hands of the face appear to move slowly. The second hand makes a small, ticking noise when I place it to my ear. It sounds like a lullaby, soothing me into everlasting bliss. To me, it was moving far too fast. If only I could cease time, just for a bit…
Just then, a familiar voice calls out from behind me. “Miss Poetry Sunshine! What a coincidence! Oh yes! Yes! She is here! She is here as I hoped!” Suzie screams at the top of her lungs, earning several wondrous looks from the people in front of me. Some of them had begun to break out into flustered conversations, slowly beginning to become annoyed with Suzie’s loud outbursts.
My face goes red hot. The security guard begins to search for the loud speaker. Don’t turn around Alia. I tell myself. Just keep, looking, forward. I hardly have time to think when from behind me, I feel hands clasp tightly around my waist. Similar to our first encounter, I jump in fright, letting out a pathetic yelp. She releases her grip, and I spin around quickly, staring right into her bright golden-yellow eyes. Oh boy.
“Hello! Hello!” she still screams, attracting even more unwanted attention towards herself, and now me. I don’t know what to do, my eyes search for an escape, but I find no security guard. The guard himself seems to have disappeared entirely. Perhaps he wished to avoid confrontation as much as I did. “And what brings you to this place Miss Poetry Sunshine?!” My stomach drops as people began to whisper. I’m speechless. I cringe at the thought of the word, ‘ditch’, but I felt the strong desire to do just that. She jumps up and down with anticipation. “Oh! Mama! Papa! Come here!” My head feels numb. Her parents are here too? I start to panic.
I am frightened of what here parents are going to be like. Secretly, I hope they aren’t too much like their peculiar daughter. Suzie is still bouncing around, happy as can be. I had much preferred the encounter with Suzie in the auditorium, where we were alone. Now we were in public.
Regret for declining that guards’ offer hits me.
To my surprise the calm, smiling young couple emerges from a few people back. They wave at me, motioning me to come over. Reluctantly, I walk over to them, Suzie grabbing my hand and leading the way. The chatter seems to finally settle down, as people went on with their own lives. Once I reach them, the younger woman sticks out her hand to shake mine. I raise mine to do the same.
“How do you do, Alia, right? It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she greets me, pleasantly, “As you might already know, I’m Suzie’s mother.” Her smile seems friendly. She gestures with her other, unoccupied hand to the man standing silently beside her. “And this is my husband, Harold.”
I think back to my earlier conversation with Suzie, recalling her last name. “Nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Lotus,” I say, shaking her hand, then moving over to shake Harold’s hand as well. His hand seems stiff, maybe a little bit tense.
Her laugh resembles Suzie’s, “Well, you sure are polite aren’t you? Please, call me Diana. Mrs. Lotus makes me feel old.” Once again, she gestures toward the quiet father. “Just call him Harold. I’m sure he would say the same thing.” Her voice is smooth and gentle.
I’m shocked at the difference between her and her daughter’s personality. I had expected her to be just as unique as Suzie. Their physical appearances were strikingly similar to one another. The same blonde hair, same smile and laugh. I made sure to check her eyes. They were a normal brown color. I’m relieved to see this.
“Alright, Diana,” I try the new name, “and Harold.” He nods with a blank expression on his face. I notice he still hasn’t said anything ever since I had first spoken. The realization begins to trouble me.
“Oh, yes, I feel as though I should tell you that Harold doesn’t like to engage in conversation as much I do,” she reads my mind, laughing half-heartedly at this, her eyes drooping. Harold seems saddened at the sound of this. Feeling the mood becoming kind of unsettling, I smile.
“Understood, don’t worry, Harold, I’m not much of a talker either.” No smile or any sign of gratefulness shows on his face. I had hoped to cheer him up or at least get a simple chuckle, but he locks up his emotions tight and tucks them away. Diana, on the other hand, I could see all sorts of happy feelings radiating from her. Like the spitting image of her daughter, her eyes seem to light up.
“Well I certainly am!” she exclaims. With a cheery chirp, she brings herself closer to me, bringing up a number of topics to keep me occupied. For a while, we talk non-stop, Diana doing most of it, and me just making brief comments. Harold would grunt every once in a while in agreement, still keeping to himself.
The family is strange and secretive, but I find myself enjoying their presence anyways. Diana tells me several things about herself, simple things such as where she and the other two live (some island they called Hawaii), her likes and dislikes, and her views on the world. She tells me they came to London to hear my recital, that they had missed my previous one in Santa Fe, New Mexico by only a few seconds. So they were just another handful of my loyal fans.
Her comments interest me, I find myself quite fond of her eagerness to chat. Suzie eventually becomes bored with our normal talk, and walks a short distance away from us, singing utter nonsense to herself. Those who had complained when she first arrived finally got used to her strange behavior, and began to fall in love with her amusing performances. She soaks in the attention, her eyes growing bigger and bigger with awe. Watching her, I chuckle and begin to wonder if she was becoming more popular than me.
It crosses my mind that earlier when we had been in the auditorium, Suzie had said she was going to go see a movie. They shouldn’t have been here, but at the theatre, enjoying the film. In fact, it should be still playing as we speak. Now, it seemed rather bizarre for her to just coincidently run into me here. Pretty soon, my mind clouds yet again at the past discoveries I had made, so when Diana and I finish our latest conversation about my career life, I ask her about her sudden change of destinations.
“So, Diana, Suzie and I spoke earlier, and she told me that you were going to go see a movie together. I hate to intrude, but did something happen? She seemed rather,” I strain to think of a word that fits, “rather fixed on seeing it.”
Unsure if I had only imagined it, Diana seems to curse to herself under her breath. After a brief sigh, and the rubbing of her arms, she replies, “Well, they were sold out.”
That was a lie. I decide to play along anyways.
“That’s too bad, I’m sorry to hear that. So that’s what made you decide to come to the London Eye?” I ask. She nods silently. Her talkative self seems to disappear.
“Yeah, Suzie was disappointed, and well, I figured a giant Ferris wheel. What better way to cheer her up?” she smiles yet again. This time, it looks as if it were forced.
“She looks happy, that’s for sure,” I add, turning to see what Suzie was doing at the moment.
Suzie is spinning in circles now, gawking upward to the gloomy sky. A crowd has gathered around her, watching her with fascination. I can’t seem to take my eyes off her, thinking back to the last conversation we had. I still couldn’t believe how quickly she seemed to change. Then, I notice her clothing was different. She wore the same exact attire as her mother: a plain, slightly ruffled, purple blouse, some old, worn out jeans, a light brown trench coat that seemed too large, and even regular white tennis shoes, falling apart with age. Diana notices my expression.
“You probably already noticed that Suzie isn’t like…” she pauses to think for a moment, settling her eyes upon her still amused daughter “most people. She goes through several cases of sudden mood changes or, perhaps you could say, personality changes.” At this, I direct my attention towards her, hoping to learn more. She continues, “We’ve checked her in with doctors, specialists, and therapists but no one was able to determine what exactly was wrong with her. After a few years, we saw no progress, so we just gave up. It wasn’t worth it, seeing her being pricked with needles and hooked to the scariest looking machines.” Diana seems to shudder at the memory.
I hadn’t expected that as an answer. Hooked to machines? Pricked with needles? This didn’t sound like simple doctor procedures to me. It sounded almost as if they were experimenting on the poor thing.
“So, they weren’t able to explain what the deal was with her eyes?” I boldly ask.
“Ah, so you’ve noticed. I figured you would have.” She replies calmly. Her eyes move from side to side, as if she were making sure no one was listening in on us. “Sadly, no, like I said, they couldn’t give us any actual information.”
I feel like I might as well ask, “How did everyone react to the sudden eye color changes?”
Diana smiles weakly, “They thought they were those brand new colored eye contacts.” she snorts with repulsion. “Ridiculous.”
“Yeah… Ridiculous.” I mutter, deep in thought.
I think back to what Jimmy had said before. “I’m pretty sure it was one of those fancy eye contact thingies that change the colors of your eyes. They sell those things everywhere”. Everyone had come to that same conclusion, but even with what little I knew, it was very unlikely.
Suddenly, a new feeling comes over me. My weariness toward the Lotus’s strange backgrounds now felt unnecessary. Instead, a feeling of pity washes over me. Seeing Diana in such a sad state makes me feel weak. Harold looks no better, his eyes drooping with an unseen tiredness of having to watch his daughter suffer through so many operations and have to deal with the cold fact of having her endure it all for nothing. These weren’t creepy people who hid every single thing from me because they wanted to. These were concerned parents, with a daughter they loved very deeply that had been diagnosed with something foreign. They held secrets because they had to, for the sake of their daughter being able to live a normal life. My life now seems more tolerable when compared to Suzie’s. I now held a strong sense of respect for them. I begin to feel like I shouldn’t meddle in with their affairs any longer, but focus more on becoming better acquainted with them, and being supportive.
“All that matters is her happiness right?” I try brightening the mood.
Diana gazes up at me, startled by what I’ve just said. I continue, staring back at Suzie, her eyes still at her original sunflower glow. Her laughter sounds sweet and lively. If anyone had been told of her past experiences, they would have hardly noticed if she was feeling any sort of resentment or pain of any kind.
“I mean, just look at her. She’s a blessed child.” I turn back toward the listening mother and father. “Your daughter, I’ve only known her for not even an hour, and already, I can see how happy she is.” One of my hands motions toward Diana, then slowly toward Harold, “and look, look how lucky she is. Two loving parents who care for her so deeply to actually go through the trouble to make sure she was fine. To make sure nothing with wrong with their daughter, who I’m sure they love very, very much. So much, in fact, that they couldn’t even bear to see her in pain, that they ended the doctor visits and everything, so she could live a trouble free life like everyone else. Am I right?” I finish. I’m flustered to see tears stream down Diana’s eyes. Harold smiles for the first time.
“You truly are a wonderful girl, Alia,” Diana chokes. I blush at this statement, watching Diana give me such loving eyes. I feel pressured, as though her love was going to suffocate me.
“Please, don’t say that,” I insist, waving my hands in a frantic motion, “Please, seriously, if anyone’s been wonderful this evening, it’s you.” When I say this, I find myself in Diana’s arms, wrapped in what one might call a bear hug. This was one of the very few times I’ve ever been a kind embrace such as this. A warm feeling seems to cross over me, blocking out the cold air, maybe even blocking out my cold past, if just for a moment.
Sadly, the moment passes, as the line begins to move yet again, Diana having to release me from her comforting hug. I clear my throat in embarrassment.
“Well, what do you know, looks like it’s our turn to get on!” she exclaims happily, walking in the direction of the line. She was right. Towering right above us was the giant Ferris wheel. Before I know it, Suzie sprints past us into one of the boarding compartments, frightening the man who stood by waiting for the next group to place directly inside the ride. Diana and I chuckle with amusement, apologizing to the still shaken up man. Even Harold makes a sound that appears to be a rough laugh. Before I step inside with the others, I give a quick wink saying, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Being in his early twenties, it seems, he turns red.
Inside, I already find Suzie pressed up against the glass, fogging it up with her heavy, excited breathing. The man glances inside, watching Suzie cautiously. “Excuse me miss, but please don’t lean on-“
Suzie spins around unexpectedly, staring intensely at the man, a huge grin forming on her lips. “Start the ride! Sun-Sun and I want to go now! Kind sir of the giant circle! Start away! Start away!”
Fear is written all over the man’s face now, as he practically jumps away from the door. It slams shut behind him. I’m not sure, but I could have sworn I had heard him yell at the others to start the ride as quickly as possible. Not that I blame him.
We’re finally in motion, rising toward the heavens. Suzie runs back toward the giant glass window, ignoring the man’s warning, fogging up the surface once more. I walk up behind her, tapping her on the shoulder.
“Sun-Sun?” I ask curiously, “What happened to Miss Poetry Sunshine?” She giggles.
“Cause’ you are the Sun-Sun to my Heart-Heart” she answers like it was a something I should have already known. Smiling I pat her on the back and make my way to the opposite side.
The higher the elevation, the more breathtaking the scene seems. I listen to the sound of Harold and Diana walking over to join their daughter in the glorious intake of the city of London. No one speaks, the only sound being the low ‘creak’ of moving metal. From afar, I make out the city’s giant clock tower, Big Ben.
Instinctively, I raise my arm to observe the time on my own device. Before I can make out the time, a song rings out in the distance, the source coming from the Big Ben clock tower itself. Five o’clock.
The plane tickets feel heavy in my pocket. In only an hour I would have to come to face Henry. Wondering what he was doing at the moment, I crease my forehead in concentration. He was probably sitting somewhere, just waiting for the time to come, tapping away at his leg. I shake away the thought. Now wasn’t the time to stress over that. Without realizing it, I finger the side of the watch nervously, glancing at the giant river Thames, slowly descending below us. The higher we get, the clearer the sky becomes, the sun casting a glittering surface upon the body of water. I begin to fall victim to the lulling spell, feeling my eyes fade into a drowsy state. I could have easily fallen asleep, when an unfamiliar voice from behind me speaks.
“Beautiful isn’t it?”
I freeze in place. The voice didn’t belong to any of the Lotus’s. In the reflection of the glass, I make out a new presence, a girl looking to be about my height and age. I can’t find any other figures in the image, the Lotus family was gone. The ride stops suddenly, probably to welcome new boarding passengers. I turn toward the mysterious stranger, trying to hide the fear and anxiety that was beginning to build up inside me.
“Who are you?!” My voice ruins the moment, sounding weak and terrified and louder than it should have been. My eyes move side to side in a frantic motion, seeking Suzie and the other two. “Where are they?! Where’d they go?!” I am practically screaming, my voice already giving way, feeling hoarse. The girl, whoever she was, twitches her eyebrows in obvious frustration.
“Be quiet, there’s no need to yell,” she says in mildly irritated tone. Her light, brown eyes stare off past me into the scenery behind me. “I only said it looked beautiful, and here you are yelling at me.”
“Don’t tell me what to do!” I continue to scream, repeating my earlier question. “Now tell me where they are! Tell me how the heck you got in here!”
She began to grind her teeth. “Look, alright, calm down, just give me a minute, and please keep your voice down.” Her eyes close, deep in thought.
“Calm down?! You are asking me to calm down?! Are you nuts?! I come in here with a group of people just a few seconds ago, and they somehow disappear and now you just happened to get in here without so much as a-“
Her eyes snap open, “Enough,” she spats out, fury crosses her expression, making me flinch. “You’re ticking me off. Now would you kindly shut-up and let me speak?” She groans, rubbing her head. “Your so called friends are alright, I didn’t kill them or anything ok? They are somewhere safe as we are speaking.”
Feeling the strong urge to say something bold, I open my mouth. At this, she glares at me coldly. “But you know I could kill them if you don’t learn when to keep quiet.” When she says this, I begrudgingly shut my mouth. A loud sigh escapes from her. “Thank you.”
I take a quick note of her frightening appearance. Her hair is a menacing black, her eyes a dark, powerful brown, her nose is perfectly straight, and her mouth frozen in a threatening scowl. Overall, she isn’t the nicest looking person I’ve ever seen.
“Well, you aren’t exactly the best thing to look at either.” Her scowl seems even crueler, her hands placed firmly upon her hips.
I blink, wait, did she just read my mind? She rolls her eyes.
“No, of course not, I traveled into the future just now and judged myself from a different angle. Yes you twit. Honestly, is this really who I have to work with?” she looks me up and down. “You are Alia Grey, right?” She gives me a look as if hoping I would say no.
“Yes, I’m Alia.” I say surprisingly calmer even I was pretty certain she was mocking me. “And now, do you mind telling me who the heck you are? And how you know my name?” The girl groans once again at the sound of this.
“Ugh, really, I thought I would get to meet someone who I would actually be fond of.” An almost bored expression now appears on her face, as she glances to the side of me, her eyes close yet again. “Or at least someone who has average intelligence,” she mutters.
“Hey, I asked what your name is.” I say impatiently, brushing aside the insulting comment.
“I don’t have a name.” She kicks the floor lazily.
Now, it was my turn to groan. Thank you for the useful information. “What should I call you then?”
She gives me a look suggesting what I had just said was the most absurd thing she’s ever heard. “Why should you call me anything? Don’t you few only give up your title when you’re making a friend?” she cackles at this, “Like I’d do such a ridiculous thing like that.”
“Whatever. So, how the heck did you get in here?” I try asking again.
“I’m a figment of your imagination,” she answers bluntly.
“Oh,” I say, fuming, “don’t you pull that crap with me.”
She snickers, pacing around the room. “Oh, so there is hope for you after all.”
“What do you mean?” I ask confused.
“You have some intelligence in that small brain of yours. Not average, but it’s something at least.”
I frown, shooting her the dirtiest look I can manage. “Oh, did I make little miss sensitive angry? I so sorry.” she grins with a cruel sense of humor.
“Obviously there’s a reason why you came here so why don’t you tell me your little message and get the hell out?”
Her face darkens in a fit of rage. She ceases her pacing and turns directly towards me, nostrils flaring, her eyes are hard and cold. I feel a cold chill through the air. “I don’t like your tone,” she spats angrily, “And I refuse to have some little punk tell me what to do around here.”
Backing up a bit from fear, I take a different approach on asking what she was doing here. “Well then, if you’d be so kind as to clarify things a bit for me, I’m still a bit clueless over here.”
“And a bit of an impatient moron at that,” she hisses, never leaving her penetrating glare from my eyes.
“Well, it’s kind of hard to be patient when a complete stranger just appears out of thin air and refuses to tell me how and why!”
She rolls her eyes. “Give me a moment, I can’t just tell you these things right away. You wouldn’t be able to handle the news. It needs to be savored for when you get a little more comfortable being around me.”
I laugh bitterly, “And look where we still are. I don’t know you, and I don’t care to. So you might as well tell me and get all this over with.”
“Well then, I guess I have no choice. We’ll start with my name. It’s Lightning,” she says frustrated, going about her pacing once more.
“Lightning,” I repeat, “and well, I suppose it’s useless to say my name because somehow you already know it.”
“Hey, you want to become more comfortable around me right? Then stop your complaining and start bonding.”
I huff angrily, willing myself to not let my guard down. She was still a threat, and I refused to see her as someone trustable. Though it was probably useless to give the room a second look for any secret entrances she could have taken, I look anyways. To my disappointment, everywhere is completely sealed off. No living soul could find a way to cram them through the compartment. And to top it all, there was no way she could have hidden behind any available objects because (a) she was far too large and it would have been obvious, and (b) there wasn’t a single object here in the first place. The only real conclusion was she must have mysteriously appeared through thin air, which is humanly impossible. So the thought then remains, is she human?
Of course she is. Right? Isn’t she?
“What a curious question to have,” Lightning’s voice pulls me from my thoughts, proving furthermore the unique, alien like abilities she seems to have. “The big question, asking it already huh? And here I’d think you’d never try to guess.”
My eyes widen, “So you’re confirming my claim? You aren’t human?”
“I can neither confirm nor deny that statement.”
“Whoa,” suddenly I become more excited than afraid or threatened, “So you’re like an alien or something? Like you can use weird powers and stuff?” I find myself asking quickly, fascinated by the very possibility. She looks at me offended.
“I just said I can’t tell you if that’s true or not. So why are you automatically inferring I’m an alien of all things? Are you even listening?”
“Wait,” I hold up my hands as though to stop her, “this isn’t possible right?” I continue my frantic behavior, ignoring her entirely. “There’s no such thing as having powers and there’s no such thing as aliens. So then, is this really happening?” Then a thought occurs to me and my face flushes. “Are you here to kill me?”
“Hah, just getting ready to,” she cracks her knuckles loudly, spooking me, “Look, am I even getting to you or are you just going to make baseless conjectures all day? If you would just kindly shut that motor mouth of yours I may just be able to explain some things.”
I become dead silent.
“Thank you,” she sighs with relief, “Now, what exactly do you what me to answer?”
“Uh, if you’re human or not?” I say impatiently. She pauses dramatically for a while, eyeing me cautiously.
“I-“she starts. I lean in to hear her life changing answer, eager to hear whether or not I’ve just witnessed something impossible coming into existence, “can neither confirm nor deny that.”
My hands are in the air motioning disbelief and frustration. “What?! You tell me you’re going to say something worth listening to and you blow it. I know you aren’t human. Don’t play dumb with me.”
“Well then Sherlock, just what makes you say that?”
I look at her as though she were clueless. “Really? I mean really? ‘I can neither confirm nor deny that’ is practically saying, ‘yes I’m an alien freak’, plus you read minds. What human reads minds?!” I point out, mimicking her voice. She looks peeved now.
“Don’t compare me to something so repulsive like that,” she snaps, storming towards me now, more furious than ever.
“Oh, sorry Lightning, guess that was a little too rude of a name to call you.”
“A little?” She stops in her tracks, standing only a few inches from me know. Then as though it just came clear to her of her acceptance of being of a different species, she quickly adds, “Not that I’m saying I’m an alien. Or I mean, like an alien.” Silence. “You still think I’m not human don’t you?”
“So! We’re finally getting somewhere!” I interrupt, clapping my hands together, smiling proudly.
“Yep,” she sighs, “Thought so.”
The news is difficult to process. Here I was, standing before a complete stranger who held such amazing, nonhuman capabilities. This was too much for me to take in. I couldn’t decide whether to be confused, stunned, or thrilled. I can only manner to remain speechless and in awe.
“Oh c’mon, I mean it’s not that great of a discovery is it?” Lightning speaks, bringing a startled me out of my thoughts once more.
“How in the world did you?” Her eyes now look up at the ceiling. She’s now fuming, becoming impatient with each passing second.
“C’mon, I thought we already established that. I read your mind. You just went on about that like ten seconds ago.”
I find myself blushing with embarrassment. I really wasn’t handling this very well. My mind was torn between believing this to be true and seeing it as bizarre dream.
“Well, we could just go with that idea and say it’s a dream. I think I like that better than this mess of a situation I’m in.”
“Stay out of my head!” I snap.
Lightning smiles an unpleasant smile, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize it was bothering you that much.” She sticks out her tongue rudely at me, tempting me to lunge at her. With great difficulty, I shake away any intentional thoughts of attacking her and move on to a newer subject. Does she have any sense of respect for privacy?
“Alright, so far, we’ve established you aren’t human,” I shake my head furiously when she tries to object, “and you’ve told me your name, but I’m still not sure who exactly you are.”
She walks back over to the far side of the room, looking out into the scenery once more, and says, “A friend. Just a friend passing by.” This leaves me more confused than ever. Only moments ago she had just referred me as a twit, a punk, and someone very unlikely to ever be called her acquaintance. Now she’s calling herself a friend? What the heck does that mean?! Her face becomes serious now, “It means I’m a friend moron. I’m not an enemy. But I’m a friend who still thinks you’re not the type to accomplish anything in life.” Taken back by her rude answer to my private thoughts, I struggle to speak calmly.
“Well, how do I know that for sure? You know, that you’re my friend?”
“Well, are you dead?” That same bored look comes across her face. Beginning to pace around the area, I keep her in my sight. “Trust me, if I had any intentions to kill you, you’d be dead in a split second.”
I don’t doubt her. Something tells me this girl is stronger and deadlier than she seems, and her lack of compassion was really getting to me. Obviously this was the best answer she was going to give me for that question.
“Wow, you actually got silent for a second. Did I scare you?”
I glare at her, “Why don’t you go ahead and read my mind? You do an excellent job invading people’s personal thoughts huh?”
“Well I would have, but you were giving me a headache what with all that screaming. You see? I listened and did something out of the kindness in my soul.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Oh, about the headache? Well yeah, though I thought that’s the usual case with everyone you talk to. Look, do you think you could actually ask me something more interesting? I’m getting bored.”
“Well then tell me what you want me to ask!”
“I don’t know.”
“Then get out.”
“Is that a demand I hear coming from you?”
“You know what, yes, yes it is. Now please tell me what you want from me or just get out! Bring back the Lotus’s and get out.”
“Ouch. That hurts me deeply, Alia. Don’t you want to get to know me better?”
“Well last time I checked, when I tried doing that, you don’t give me a damn thing to work with!”
“Oh,” she chuckles darkly, with a cruel, malicious grin, “Beginning to act all big tough girl now aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” I dare to take a step towards her, “So what if I am. What? You going to kill me because let me just say, I’ve got nothing to live for. Bring it.”
She laughs coldly, “Oh, Alia,” she pauses to shake her head slowly, “If you only knew.”
I begin to wonder if she’s really going to kill me when she struggles to restrain herself, and gradually relaxes, taking a few steps back to lean casually against the wall.
“Shame, guess I can’t really kill you, now. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Your offer is really tempting, but sadly, I’m not exactly supposed to do anything…messy.”
“You know what?!” I throw my arm up in defeat. “Whatever! I don’t care anymore!”
My change of tone seems to get a reaction from her. Giving herself a small push off the wall, her fiery attitude comes back. “Hey, you want to know something? Fine. I came here to see how you were progressing. There you go. I’ve told you something. Now stop your complaining.”
“Progressing?! You came here to see how I was progressing?! What does that even mean?!” Lightning finally composes herself, going back to her secretive stance.
“Nothing. It doesn’t concern you.”
“That’s bull! You just said you came here to see how I was progressing.” my voice becomes louder with each word, “That certainly sounds like it has everything to do with me!”
She only eyes me dully. “You’re yelling again.” My teeth clench tightly. With great difficulty, I strain to control my tone and volume.
“What exactly do you mean by progressing?” As I ask, I nervously rub my arm, worrying about what the answer would be. All those times I had thought I was alone, I started to wonder if I was being watched.
Wait, watched…? Watched…watch. Time. Oh god, Henry. How long had I been in here? What time was it?
“Don’t concern yourself about Henry,” she says, apparently going back to the mind reading thing. “Oh, and you shouldn’t worry, since I’m not telling you,” Lightning says to my dismay. Her eyes gaze yet again past me, outside of the compartment, toward the city of London. The city of London that now seems suspiciously quiet. How long had it been this silent? Why didn’t I notice it before? Afraid of what I would find, I take a quick glance at my watch. To my horror, my guess has been proven accurate. The hour hand rests on the five and the minute hand… it too, rests on the five. We’ve been speaking for at least five or so minutes, but even the second hand lays just a few dashes away from the occupied number five. I turn back toward the window, wanting to make sure I wasn’t losing it.
“What in the-?” I whisper to no one, not able to finish the sentence. I feel Lightning’s eyes burning into the back of my head. Looking down, I see hundreds of tiny dots, hundreds of people. They weren’t moving. Nothing was moving. Time had ceased and I feel myself shake with a new terror. “Seriously, just what are you?” I don’t turn around, still dumbfounded by the view from outside.
I blink once, a hand grabs at my arm, the one holding the useless, unmoving time. My body reacts, trying to jump away from her grip. Her strength is greater than mine, as my single attempt to move away doesn’t even startle her. Her eyes peer at my watch, then once finished, she slowly releases my arm. I back away from her cautiously. I blink again, and then she’s on the far opposite wall. Reading minds, freezing time, appearing out of nowhere, and now having super speed?
“Time for me to go,” she finally says, her face looking drained, looking tired. Curious as to what led her to that decision and state, I view the time on the watch yet again. The second hand has started to move. I look out the window. Even the people were slowly beginning to unfreeze, walking in slow motion. “Later,” she says quickly, waving a single hand at me.
“No! Wait!” I scream, shocked by the fact of despite how much I had wanted her to leave before, I now want nothing but her to stay and tell me more about this “processing” she spoke of. But I react too slowly. A bright flash crosses the room, nearly blinding me as I shield my eyes almost instinctively, pain throbbing in my forehead. As my eyes finally adjust, I find not Lightning, but three wide-eyed faces staring back at me. The Lotus’s.
“Are you quite alright dear?” Diana asks, her face contorted with dread. I feel relieve course through my body at the sight and sound of her, but even more so, absolute confusion of what had just transpired.
“I should be asking you that!” I exclaim, pulling her into an awkward hug. “I’m so relieved, where’d you guys go?! You all just vanished completely!” I let her go, thinking back to the bright white flash. Where had Lightning gone? Diana now looks even more worried. Suzie stares at me blankly, her eyes a worried baby blue.
“What on earth are you talking about?” Diana’s voice is strained, and quiet. “We were here the whole time, you just, passed out…” Confused I shake my head no.
“You, no, all of you disappeared, and someone came into here…” my voice trails off. They thought I passed out? Suzie shuffles her feet nervously, her previous highly spirited-self now replaced with a look of guilt.
Diana and Harold both move their heads side to side simultaneously, their eyes looking painfully secretive. “No, no one left, and no one got in…”
We start moving, rising higher into the sky. I’m startled by this, thinking back to when time had supposedly ceased. I guess I was so wrapped up in my thoughts, that I’d forgotten where we were. Unwilling to believe my interaction with Lightning was a mere dream, I try making sure they weren’t joking, one last time, “Seriously? I thought you were all gone.” They all stick with their side of the story, saying I had suddenly collapsed to the floor and was out for just a couple of minutes.
I reluctantly decide to drop the subject, still unconvinced their side of the story was true. Suzie becomes quiet, walking back over to the window as we begin our descending back to the earth, Diana and Harold following wordlessly behind her. It takes a couple long, agonizing minutes for us to land. Once the door opens, a different man leads us out, bidding us farewell and wishing us a good night. No words are exchanged between anyone as we make our way to the place where we had first met one another. Still troubled by our previous conversation, we arrive to the spot, and then wave each other off. As they walked away, I see Suzie’s still deep, blue eyes, glancing behind her, staring through me. It looks as though she mouths “goodbye” to me one last time, but I’m not sure. When they disappear around the corner, I feel flushed.
My face growing pale, I make my way back to where Jimmy had dropped me off, receiving many concerned looks from passing individuals. My mind reels back to when these same people had been frozen in time. Deep in thought, I find myself constantly bumping into several people. After muttering sorry to a couple more, I decide that stressing over what just occurred at the time would need to wait for a better setting. However, a new question crosses over me, causing me to stop momentarily to think. Should I tell Jimmy what just happened?
No, of course not, I say to myself, he would think I was losing it. And with that, I continue my stressful walk toward the parking lot. In no time at all, I’m standing at the curb where I had received my watch.
“Hey!” a voice screams, “Where the heck have you been?! I’ve been here for nearly an hour looking for you! We’ve got to leave, NOW!!!”
Panic rises up my throat, making me want to choke. Jimmy’s voice sounds frantic. I sprint full speed to the open door of the limo, not bothering to slow down, jumping inside. I stare blankly at my watch, “Damn it…” The door slams shut. It was six thirty.