Authors: C. L. Scholey
Jaron eyed her critically. "Where is it now?"
"I…I don't know. I lost it after that night, I think, maybe." The memory slipped away, back into a mind-trunk filled with unanswered questions. The lid slammed shut into darkness.
"There's a lot of stuff you conveniently forget." Jaron's words were patronizing.
"Are you going to give me to Carver now?" she whispered.
Rain could feel her heart thumping harder. She was almost positive Jaron could feel it pounding against the back of his fist as his hand tightened in the material of her shirt. Imagined visions of her bloody, knife-riddled body flashed before her eyes and she grimaced. She swallowed hard and looked up at him. Try as she might, she knew she couldn't stem the fear radiating from her eyes.
"I should, seeing as how you don't remember me and obviously aren't going to apologize for shit after all."
"Is that what this is about? An apology?"
"I saved your life," Jaron said, only he sounded tortured. He practically thrust her from him.
"All these years and you only want an 'I'm sorry'?" Rain couldn't help it; she was still unwilling to believe him.
"Come on." Jaron took her arm and led her to another apartment building.
Thunder boomed and lightning crashed. The night was wild with nature's wrath. The room was stuffy and stale. Jaron cast his glance from the window to Rain. She was asleep on the couch. He hadn't kept her cuffed; the windows were nailed shut and the door triple-bolted. She had seen his weapon. If she screamed, no one would care. Even the cops were afraid to come into this neighborhood.
Rain had refused to eat anything in the time he'd had her. Before she fell asleep she had declared she'd sat idle long enough. With her hand placed lightly on the kitchen table she had limbered up, swinging her legs, bending.
Jaron had been feeling cramped himself with the long car ride. Watching a gorgeous ballerina swivel her hips had given him a hard-on and he was still uncomfortable. Out of habit he checked his weapon.
"Where the hell do you think you're going?" Jaron said when he caught movement from the corner of his eye.
Rain was up and moving toward the door. She was no longer barefoot. After bandaging a small cut on her foot, Jaron had swiped her some shoes from a line. They were holey and scuffed and no doubt some kid's but too bad.
Rain reached for the door handle and Jaron watched her jiggle it. Casually he strolled over.
"It's locked," he said drily. Rain continued to work the handle. "Hello? Are you deaf now as well as senile?"
Curiously he moved somewhat in front of her. Rain was staring off into space. He waved his hand across her face. Either she was ignoring him—or she was sleepwalking. He guessed the latter.
Jaron looked back to the window as the storm continued to howl. It was a night like this her parents were gunned down. Rain's grandparents had been working. Her father had been in the apartment. After the fire was set, her mother had apparently climbed from the closet she and Rain were hiding in. The race for their lives had begun, then ended in tragedy—his included.
Jaron opened the door. Rain moved, dreamlike, down the hall. They were on the first floor, like her parents had been. Out into the wind she stepped without breaking stride. Rain looked to her left and moved toward her old apartment building.
They were both soaked after a few feet. Lightning crashed overhead and Jaron heard Rain whimper. Her breathing increased. She reached her old building. The look on her face was total confusion—then panic. Jaron lunged for her when Rain bolted.
Through the alley she sped, turning and twisting, staying a hairsbreadth in front of him. She leaped over cans and cardboard. Her fingers trailed through left out old clothing sitting on sagging lines. There was oddness to the way she was fleeing from him. Her actions were controlled, rehearsed—or remembered. She was suddenly in a heap on the ground. Jaron stopped dead, almost tripping over her in his haste to keep up.
Holy shit, she's
Rain's hands fisted as though grabbing something—no, someone. It didn't take much for Jaron to remember. Those few moments were embedded into his very soul.
This was the same path Rain's mother had fled trying to escape Carver. The woman had stumbled on this spot and dropped Rain. Both woman and child had cried out. Rain's body arched and her hands dragged up her sides. Rain's mother had been shot in the back. Thankfully the bullet had lodged and not gone straight through her into Rain's tiny body. With her precious child clutched to her breasts, Rain's mother had staggered as Rain now staggered forward. She'd had courage, Rain's mom. Jaron had watched from a distance, hiding in the shadows; he had been so scared.
No one had helped Rain's mother. Curtains had been closed; open doors had banged shut. The determination to save her child's life had moved Jaron in a way nothing ever had. But the woman had been mortally wounded. She was slowing dying.
Rain danced the song of the dead. Her small feet moved like gentle feathers on a soft current. She lifted a hand to stroke against her breasts as one would shush or comfort a child. She twisted as though to peek at her assailant. Rain was moving death—her actions so meticulously slow it was pitiful. Until finally, down she went in a graceful surrender. There was poetry in her motion when Rain danced. Her tale was gripping, and he felt his heart in her clutches.
Rain was lying now, facedown in the alley, gasping. She lifted her head; her elbows wobbled and almost buckled beneath her. When she rose Jaron knew it was Rain the child. Lost and alone she flittered from her dead mother's side, looking back, willing her mother to rise. Rain's hair was dripping over her face; her shirt was saturated and molded to her skin. His boxers shaped to her slim hips showing off beautiful legs and a rounded behind.
When she turned to look at him she was terrified. A childlike expression of innocence and loss made his heart hurt. Instinctively he knew whatever possessed her to dance had now lost its hold; she was wide-awake. Her eyes were pleading with him to help her. She lifted her hand and she reached for him. Her fingers trembled. Jaron stepped from the shadows just like he had eighteen years ago. Rain stepped into his arms. She clung to him and he swore he could feel her relief. Jaron turned her and shielded her from the storm.
~ * ~
"You left me all alone," Rain muttered.
Jaron lifted his hand and cupping her chin he tilted her face up to meet his gaze. "I left to save your life."
"I was so scared," Rain said. Jaron wasn't lying; she remembered. She'd remembered everything while she had danced. Back through time her mind had taken her. Everything had been so vivid—so real. But would the person she sought be there in the shadows? "Daddy was dead; my mother was lying in a pool of blood that ran right past me. You were holding me, next you vanished. It was hours before they found me. I couldn't speak for days after."
"Why, Rain? Why didn't you ever say anything?"
"Because you weren't real," she muttered.
"You weren't real." Her hand rose to cover her mouth for mere seconds before continuing. "You vanished and Grams said an angel watched over me that night. I thought you were an angel."
"But you got older, you had to know. I met you when you were a baby. You knew me," he said desperately.
"After I convinced myself you were an angel, I blocked everything else out. I wasn't allowed to see any papers or news; we didn't have a TV. We had moved within days after it happened. I was in shock. One moment we were in the city, the next in the country, and everything was so different. Everything in my world was different. My parents were dead, my home burned, my friends gone. Even my surroundings had been taken from me.
"It took forever for Grams to teach me that squirrels weren't rats. At first I was too terrified to go outside. I had never seen a cow up close, or a horse. I had never seen so much grass; suddenly the pavement was replaced by green and not black and it felt strange under my feet, softer. The smells were different. A car's exhaust was replaced with manure and hay. Rain had a certain odor when all along I thought it was just wet and damp and moldy. My father said he named me Rain because it was so beautiful, so fresh. He always said if innocence had a texture, it would be a single clear, clean raindrop. I didn't believe him until we moved.
"It was so quiet at night. No cars, no sirens to help me remember. Just grasshoppers chirping—I'd never heard so many. It was like a song and it made my emotions dance. The air was so sweet, at times Grams left my window open and didn't have it nailed shut. And the birds—the beautiful birds. Not a single pigeon. There were no alleys to run through. No fences to climb on and rip my pants. It was so open it was spooky. There were places I could walk where I heard no voices, no baby's cry, no people yelling or fighting or living.
"After a while my old life was like a dream. A dream that slowly slips away. I never told anyone about you being there that night. It wasn't Grams' fault. She just kept saying over and over an angel watched out for me, until I was positive. When I said yes, one did, they thought I was repeating what she said. I couldn't make the words to elaborate. I didn't even remember your name; your face was a blur. All I could see of you that horrible night was lightning that lit up your features for mere seconds. Then your back as you ran away."
Her jaw quivered when she gazed up into his dark eyes. "I'm so sorry, Jaron. I'm so sorry I blocked everything out. At night I heard a voice calling me. A panic-filled howl of such fear. Calling until I put a pillow over my ears."
"I yelled for you when the cops took me away in the rain. You never answered."
"Every time it storms I look for you, I know that now," Rain muttered. "Every night you haunt me. But when the thunder booms I hear the screams instead, the sounds of gunshots. When lightning flashes I see the fire and I need to run, to escape. I need to find…you. My God, all this time I've been looking for you in the shadows."
Rain felt him turn her toward the apartment building. She went willingly. Patches of memory like a fast-fleeing dream slipped around her brain, only this time they settled and didn't disappear. Jaron had bought her ice cream when they were little. They would sit on the front stoop. When a car would drive by he would tell her the color and spell the word, making her repeat it.
When they entered the apartment Jaron locked the door. Rain drifted to the couch. She felt dazed and weak. She was grateful for the towel he tossed at her and even more grateful for the glass of water he handed her. She was so parched she felt dehydrated. When she gazed up at him it was in awe. She had no fear of him. Jaron had taken care of her when her parents worked and Grams and Papa were busy. Jaron had made beans when they were young that he had opened and cooked in the can on the stove in a pot of water.
Jaron had taken care of her.
No wonder he hated her. He felt Rain had betrayed him, but she hadn't. It was just such a tragedy, and she had been so young.
Rain looked over at him when he sat beside her. She felt awful and for a second wanted to run from the rage she was certain to see in his eyes, but she was no coward. When she tilted her head to meet his gaze she saw small drops of rain dribble from his dark hair. Richly dark eyes were centered on her. It wasn't hate she saw. She had hurt him.
"I loved you," she whispered.
Why had she blocked his memory?
Because he left me alone; he abandoned me.
One moment she was safe in his familiar arms, the next he was gone, leaving her alone in that frightening, dark place. She had suffered through the loss of both parents; she just couldn't deal with another loss.
When the storms came she searched for him, always waiting for him to step out of the shadows. Jaron had always been in her subconscious thought. No wonder Telor hadn't been able to give her what she needed. Poor Telor—his rival was a ghost of a memory.
"Jaron," Rain said, her voice quiet, "I can't change the past, but I can tell them, the authorities, what really happened that night. I don't know what good it will do now. But I need to know if Papa made it out of the fire alive…and my…friend could have been killed."
Jaron seemed to think it over. He pulled out his cell phone and flipped it open. After dialing and placing the phone to his ear, Rain heard him ask a simple question. He snapped his phone shut after saying he would be in touch.
"You called Carver," she whispered.
He didn't deny it. "Everyone got out alive."
Rain closed her eyes in relief. He could be lying but she doubted it. "What happens now?"
"Do you know what Carver wants?"
Rain looked deep into his eyes. "No."
Jaron began pacing. Rain realized he wasn't the same little boy she had adored. This Jaron was a grown man who had done hard time because of her. How much revenge did he want?
Rain studied Jaron as he paced. Anger had clouded her vision toward him. Now he seemed too familiar. He didn't quite seem the big bully she'd imagined him to be. Jaron had striped his wet shirt off and hung it over a chair to dry. His runners squeaked when he walked across the wood-tiled floor. Jaron had grown into a very powerful man. She supposed he would have had to, to survive prison. Fifteen years was a long time—half his life.