the water reverberated throughout her head like a chisel to a rock. Her eyes moved rapidly under her eyelids. What was that noise? Slowly she tried to open her eyes, they felt like they had two 20 lb weights attached to them. Moaning, she swallowed thickly and pulled her hand to her face. Halfway up, her hand stopped. The pain in her chest came immediately; she had never felt anything like it.
It felt as if ice had completely wrapped itself around the outside of her heart. Without even meaning to, tears began to form in her eyes as short whimpers escaped her throat. It was so embarrassing, all she could do was lay there and cry like a child; her hand stuck in mid air.
Finally, she was able to move her arm back into its original position and relax. That small movement had taken all she had left in her. Soon her breath deepened and she fell into a deep, fitful sleep...
Waking, she knew instantly there was a presence. She felt the little hand grasped onto her own. Cracking her eyes open a slit, she turned her head slightly to the left, where she initially felt it; Staring down at her, stood a young girl, no more than 7 or 8 years old, with long dark hair and small Asian features; except for her eyes, her eyes were an amazing grey-blue with flecks of green around the middle.
They were almond, yet wide with long lashes that seemed to go on forever. But what disturbed her most was not the fact that this girl was next to her, but the look the child gave her; it was a look of utmost hate. A look that no person could even describe; her beautiful features were scrunched up in a look of disdain, her head shaking back and forth. "Dou itashimashite." The girl said softly, her voice full of sorrow mixed with contempt. Reaching her hand away, the girl turned to leave. Celeste opened her mouth to speak "ano....sumimase-
“BAKAMONO!!” The girl screamed. She stood breathing hard for a second before turning and fleeing from the room.
("Dou itashimashite" is the English equivalent to "I hope your happy" Celeste replies back with "ano...sumimasen" meaning, "um...excuse me, but...” "bakamono, is a term used to call someone or something a "monster")
Bewildered, Celeste sat there, unable to make anything out of what just happened. What was she doing in my room.....? How did she know to speak to me in Japanese? What is going on? A memory began to prod her mind, pushing its way slowly into her thoughts. Where have I seen her before? Somewhere....Wasn't that....NO, it couldn't be.... Her mind worked furiously turning at a thousand miles per second, trying hard to come up with a logical explanation.
She pulled herself up and leaned back into the soft pillow. Taking a look around, she noticed the room seemed familiar. Same painting, same border, yes, she was in the exact room as before. Even the same bed; the initial shock began to wear off as her memory slowly came back; Then it hit like a brick wall.
The reason why she was here... How am I still alive? John...
Reaching to her chest, she felt for a bandage or possible wound; almost sure she would find something grotesque.
Just as she reached under to feel her chest, the door to the room burst open. Expecting to see a doctor or police officer, her eyes rose up to see him; her breath caught in her throat as she looked before her. NO! How can it be? How can he be standing there in front of her, with such a sweet smile on his face after he did this to me?
"Celeste!" he beamed. "How are you doing? Did you get enough rest? Do you feel OK?" He strode across the floor toward the bed; his arms outstretch a look of love and worry.
She couldn't take it, how could he look so normal? How could he just stand there like nothing happened; like he didn't have a care in the world? Snap. She felt it, a literal snap that shot through her head like a bullet; the bullet that was now probably lodged in her heart. Raising a hand to her chest she did the only thing she knew would draw attention. She pushed the nurse’s button and yelled, yelled like she had never yelled before in her life.
"GET AWAY FROM ME YOU MURDERER!!" "MURDERER! MURDERER!!...."
Her brain could no longer stand the strain, the door to the room flung open, two nurses accompanied by a burly looking guard entered just as she lost consciousness.
Looking down at her, the cop gave her a hard, cold stare.
His name was Dean, he had a thick southern accent and at the current moment he wasn't much for conversation.
"This your idea of a practical joke?" He drawled as he placed his hand on his hips. “Is this funny to you?" He paused for a moment and pointed a finger in her direction. "I don't care what you two have got going on at home, but lady- don't drag it into a public place and scare people half to death. Am I making myself clear?" His hand rested on his hips, a look of contempt and frustration crossing his face. Before all this, he had explained to her that John decided to go home to give her space. He didn't want to frighten her anymore than he already had and would be back tomorrow evening after work. Poor John.
Playing with her fingers, she looked down in the awkward silence and took a moment before answering. "Yes sir. I was confused, I'm sorry...I just thought....it was so real, I was sure I had been shot. It all felt like it was really happening...I'm really embarrassed, I'm so sorry. I-" she cut herself off in mid sentence; there really was nothing she could say to hide the fact that she had been a complete idiot. Why on earth would John ever do something like that to me?
When his voice came next, it was slightly softer, like a voice you would use to scold a child.
"A lot of times a heart attack can stimulate delusions in the brain. You must have just hallucinated, and really, I sympathize. But lady, you scared me half to death." Again, she found it hard to raise her eyes to meet his. “Really officer, I truly am sorry. I don't know what came over me...” trailing off she kept her gaze to the floor, too embarrassed to move.
"Alright, well just take it easy. The doctors are going to keep you here another couple of nights just to watch over you and make sure that everything does what it should." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a card and handed it to her. "If anything happens, you have my card." With a tip of his hat, he turned and walked out of the room.
She sat wallowing in her thoughts, each more painful than the next. It all took a while to soak in. Not shot...heart attack
Even as she thought the words, her chest ached. It was as if the vise had never left to begin with, like it kept its cold claws waiting for something, anything to unleash its frost bitten fury.
Shuddering, she lay in bed squeezing her shoulders and rubbing her hands up and down. Instinctively she reached over and turned on the TV, its glow somehow comforting her. After watching re-runs for an hour or so, a nurse came in and switched out her I.V. explaining that she would be giving her something to help her sleep. Sighing contently, it only took a few minutes before the medicine slowly started working its magic.....
Tossing back her head, she laughed as she felt the wind whip through her hair. Glancing over, she smiled at the silhouette behind the wheel.
This was the best night of her life, one of the best she'd had in months. For some reason, she couldn't see his face. No matter, she knew it was John. She was having so much fun, who else could it have been? Her laughs became more constant, flowing out of her like a babbling brook. She couldn't stop; she was having such a great time....
Finally their driving came to a halt, they had reached the shores. Such a beautiful night, so much in fact that she had her window completely down, soaking it all in. One minute, she was looking out the window; the next, soft hands were around her face pulling her to him; such soft kisses, beautiful warm kisses drowning her, leaving her wanting more each time.
Then, suddenly their clothes were off and they were making violent love. Whispering in his ear, she vowed to always be his, to love him forever. The hours waned on through the night as they made love until dawn...
Nestled in the nook of his arm, she played her fingers across his chest, admiring all the tight muscles and firm yet soft skin. Giggling, she spoke to him about the future and how much she couldn't wait to spend it with him. Just as she turned her head up to meet his gaze, the dream ended and she found herself staring into the morning light through her window...
After filling out all of her paperwork, she made her way to the front desk to check out. I’m glad I have insurance. Man, what’s been wrong with me lately...
Sighing, she turned down the last corridor and decided to take a quick detour to the bathroom. Stepping inside, she glanced at the mirror intending to walk past to the stall and stopped. I look horrible! Standing there, she turned her face back and forth, gazing at her appearance. Dark circles completely surrounded both eyes and up to the bridge of her nose. It wasn’t just her eyes, but her skin as well. It was a pale, sickly yellow and her cheeks sank in as if she hadn’t been fed in weeks.
Her once lustrous hair was matted to her head, all shine had vanished.
What’s happened to me?
Turning her head, she poked at her skin when a faint scratching turned her attention to the stalls. It started off as a small noise then became more insistent. Like an animal that’s trying to claw and scrap; to make it’s way out. Digging, grinding, tearing at the wall with its long sharp─
she screamed in terror and dropped to the floor as a loud noise erupted behind her. Rolling under the sink, she instinctively hugged her knees under her chin and covered her head. What’s going on, what is it now? Please not again….please….John….I can’t take it I can─
“Oh my goodness, I am so sorry….are you OK?”
Snapping out of her fears, she slowly lifted her head, her gaze meeting a very attractive and kind looking nurse. The woman had long, curly blond hair with blue eyes that seemed to sparkle; even in the poor bathroom light.
She opened her mouth to speak, but only managed a few squeaks to come out. “I-I…“I must have just scared the dickens out of you child! I am so sorry. Here, let me help you.” Leaning down, she offered her hand to Celeste smiling; her hand hovering in the air. Coming to her senses, Celeste turned a deep scarlet as she placed her hand in the woman’s.
“You know, I always just bust right through these doors. I frightened a little one, just the other mornin’ seemed right upset, she did. Let out a holler like you wouldn’t believe; Pretty little thing too.”
Brushing herself off, Celeste looked up startled. “Was she Japanese?” She asked. The woman looked at her puzzled. “Well, yeah I’d say she was. Or at least she looked it. I can’t really tell those sort of thi-
“Thank you.” She said, turning to leave. “No problem Hun, you sure your okay? You seem really jumpy. Maybe we should have you checked out….”
Celeste paid her no heed as she made her way out the door and to the front. So she wasn’t crazy. Something is definitely going on. And I’m going to get to the bottom of it.
The three days she had been in the hospital John had come to visit just once; his behavior had been strange─ distant, distraught and at times, just plain cold.
When she asked what was wrong, he simply replied that his job had been really stressing him out. Working up the courage she called his work and received a surprise; not to mention a surprise for John’s boss as well.
When she finally talked with him, he had some disturbing news.
“Um…well, Celeste….. John told us that he was going to be with you.” a pause. “He hasn’t been to work in a week.” Thanking him, she hung up the phone feeling lost and confused. Why would he lie about something like this? She didn’t know, but she planned on getting answers today.
Odd that when she told him she was being released, he seemed overjoyed and excited to see her. Almost like there was never anything wrong. How strange he had been lately…
“Miss? Can I help you?”
Looking up startled, she glanced around. When did I get here? Must have spaced out... “Um, yes. I was just checking out.”
The drive home was long and awkward; John seemed lost in his own world. She tried several times to talk to him, but with his short one-word answers she long gathered he was in no mood to chat. As they pulled into the driveway, he silently reached down and pulled off his seatbelt. Getting out, he strode around to her door and opened it. Before she could even open her mouth to say anything, he was at the trunk pulling out her belongings. What is his deal? Pulling her keys out from her bag, she made her way to the front door when she felt a pair of strong hands around her, flipping her around. Staring down at her with a determined look stood John, his breath coming in shallow gasps. “I’m sorry.” He mumbled as his lips wrapped around hers. He kissed her long and passionately for several moments before pulling away. Leaning down, he picked her up and carried her inside, closing the door behind him as he walked up the stairs and into her room…
The days went by fairly normal, Celeste continued with her students and John came to visit as usual. She never did ask him about what happened, nor did she care to. Whatever it was that he did, he was completely sorry for. He was just frightened, that’s all. Everything is going to be OK, she assured herself. Besides, one of her most favorite students was coming by today, Lain. She was such a sweet and sensitive girl and though she was well past the others, Celeste still taught her; getting into college level compositions. The girl was no doubt a genius, considering she was barely 7 years of age….unfortunate that her parents had passed on and the only family she had didn’t approve of anything involving the arts, calling them “pointless” and “a waste of time.” It broke her heart every time she thought about the waste of talent. The girl reminded her of herself, eager to learn and in love with music; something incredibly hard to come by in youth these days. A tap at the door woke her up, surprised she looked around. When did I get here? She was on the patio again. “Seems to be my favorite spot lately” she muttered as she strode down the stairs to the front door. She swung open the door to find quiet little Lain, her head tilted down to her shoes as she scuffed them across the concrete. “Good afternoon, Ms. Nagahito.” She mumbled under her breath. “It’s Celeste dear, you don’t have to be so formal with me” she scolded politely. “And besides, it’s Saturday! Let’s have fun” “Yes ma’am” Lain said. Sighing, and shaking her head, she led the girl in and up the stairs.
“Alright” Celeste began, “would you like any tea or cakes before we start?” she asked, knowing that Lain would love them; yet always she knew to ask.
She once had forgotten to ask and the girl threw a fit yelling that she didn’t need anyone to feel sorry for her. When it came to things like that, the girl was oddly sensitive─ Celeste had a sinking feeling that she wasn’t being fed properly. She wanted more than anything to adopt her but unfortunately, it wasn’t an option. The family the girl was staying with was living off of fat social security checks that arrived every month. For Lain she might add.
Judging by the girl’s attire, it didn’t look like they had bought anything for her in quite some time. She wore nothing but hand-me-downs all out of date and very ragged. No matter. One thing Celeste knew was that the girl was going to grow into a beautiful woman. She had always marveled at Lain’s long flowing curls, ringlets of golden blonde with natural strawberry highlights; her eyes shining like two emeralds that were wide and innocent. No amount of rags could hide this little radiant being.
The girl nodded as a slight smile broke across her sweet face. “Yes please! May I have the strawberry filled kind?” she asked, her face slightly flushed from excitement. “Of course sweetie” she called as she stepped into the kitchen. She placed the kettle on the stove top, peering over the counter as the girl started her scales. Such talent...
Waving goodbye to Lain, she closed the door and started up the stairs. Just as she reached the top stair, there was a loud knock at the door. Sighing heavily, she turned back down and reached the door.
Why on earth did I want these stairs again? She thought to herself as she peered through the peephole. Confused, she slowly opened the door and shielded her eyes from the bright afternoon sun. “May I help you officer?” she inquired, her fearful eyes looking up at him.
“Are you miss…”he trailed off and looked down at the clipboard he held in his hand.
“Ms. N-ga-…” “Nagahito─ Yes, what is it? What’s going on?”
”My name is Detective Wallis with the Dallas police department. I need to have a word with you.”
Celeste sat waiting on her piano bench staring at the ivory keys before her. Crying softly to herself she tried to make sense of the conversation that ended a few moments ago. She had so many unanswered questions and the detective had left her with little to no explanation. Closing her eyes she replayed the scene in her mind for the hundredth time, hoping that something the officer had said would give her a reason to not believe she was completely losing it.
She invited the detective into her house and offered him a cup of coffee as they went upstairs to the living room.
Waiving his hand he denied the offer and explained that he didn’t have much time to talk. She walked around and grabbed her cup of coffee off of the counter before returning.
Taking off his hat, he got straight to the point. “I’m sorry to interrupt your afternoon ma’am but I understand that a missing child was one of your students. We are searching for any clues that may lead to their whereabouts. It would be a great help if you could answer a few questions for me.” She gasped as he mentioned the missing child part and nearly dropped her tea. “Of course officer that’s terrible! Oh the poor child when did they go missing? Oh but I’m getting ahead of myself, what did you say their name was again?” “I’m sorry, I guess I didn’t.” he said as he flipped through his folder. She stared across at the detective as he thumbed through the files. He was a kind-faced man with sandy blonde hair, brown eyes and pale skin. Judging by how much he towered over her, she would have placed him around 6’ tall. As she took a closer look at him she couldn’t suppress the feeling she had seen him somewhere before. “I’m sorry, what did you say your name was again?” she inquired as he continued his search. “Oh, yes I’m sorry. My name is Daniel, you can call me Dan for short if you like” he winked as he found the page he was looking for. Leaning in close he pointed to the young girl’s picture.
“This is her, Lain Carrick. She is mainly your Saturday student from what I understand. The parents reported her missing one week ago and have reason to believe she disappeared after one of your lessons that- “I’m sorry, but what you are saying to me is simply impossible.” Celeste said as she stared at the picture. “Ma’am?” he asked looking up. As he did so she noticed for the first time that he had beautiful flecks of green and gold around the center of his eyes. Caught off guard she stuttered a bit before continuing. “T-that can’t be possible. She was just here with me a few minutes ago; you had to have seen her walking outside.
If she had been missing that long wouldn’t her parents have called me by now? You must be mistaken!” A strange look passed over the young man’s face as he leaned back and stared at Celeste. After a second of taking in what she had just said, he began to speak. “Are you sure it was just a little while ago? I know sometimes I can let time slip away from me if I’m watching a show or say…I don’t know- “Detective I don’t mean to sound rude but I know for a fact that it was just a few moments after because I had barely made it up the stairs before you knocked on my front door.” She instantly felt bad for snapping at him and apologized. “I’m sorry, I’ve been through a lot lately and I’m just really confused right now. You say they reported her missing a week ago? I guess there could be a possibility of her running away.” She paused before adding under her breath “though I can’t say I blame her.” The detective gave a slight smile before continuing on. “So I’m guessing life at home wasn’t exactly what you would call a fairy tell, huh?” She nodded as she rubbed her arms trying to shake the chill in her body. “Yeah when I talked with the parents they seemed more annoyed than worried. Like this had happened before. Am I right?” Looking at her he moved to stand up before she caught his arm. “Yes detective she has run away several times before I’m quite sure you will find that on your records.” Snapping out of it, she blushed before releasing his arm. Taking a deep breath she continued on. “I’m afraid they don’t care much for her and it shows in every way. I’d adopt her if I could.” Startled she had mentioned that last part in front of a stranger she blushed and looked to the ground. He cleared his throat before answering, realizing he must have hit a nerve.
“Hey, I know what you mean. I’ve got a soft spot for kids myself.” She looked up and him and smiled noticing that he had a far away look in his eye. She jumped as his voice brought her back. “Well, I hate to cut it short but I’ve got a few more stops today before we send out another search party. Looks like an all-nighter again.” Sighing he made his way for the stairs and jumped as he felt a pair of cold hands touch his arm. “Oh, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you. If you would like after you make the next couple of stops I can accompany you with the search. I know of several places that she might be staying or even hiding.” Nodding his head he said that would be fine. “At this point I can use all the help I can get. Thanks a lot.” With that they walked down the stairs and she locked the door behind him.
The drive seemed long as the silence between them stretched further. The officer had picked her up an hour ago and they had traveled what seemed forever down familiar streets, alleyways, and finally the library-all with the same outcome; no Lain. They sat in the library parking lot before the detective turned to her. “We’ve been searching for a while now, how about we take a quick break.” She looked over at him and feigned a smile. “I guess a little coffee or tea might do the trick, I’m fading fast.” She directed him to a small Vietnamese-owned coffee house next to 75 where she could grab one of her favorite drinks; café vanilla with coffee bean jelly. She giggled as he looked around uncomfortably. Most of the people inside were either Vietnamese or Chinese. She ordered her drink before turning to him. “Don’t worry” she whispered, “they do see white people here on occasion.”
He turned a deep shade of scarlet as she thanked the girl behind the counter. The girl smiled and winked at the detective before he hurried out. She let out a few last chuckles then composed herself as she pushed the door open to face him. He scowled at her from the sidewalk; his face still flushed a slight shade of pink. “Are you done having fun for the evening, or should I come back for an encore performance?” Her smile quickly faded as she realized that she had upset him. Just as she started to say something, her phone rang. She gave him an apologetic look before reaching into her purse. “I’m sorry, I need to take this─ my boyfriend is probably worried.” She missed the confusion across his face as she turned her back and put the phone to her ear. “Hello?” “Hey.” She recognized his worried voice immediately. “Where are you?” he breathed. “Oh hey, I’m so sorry! I forgot to call and tell you what’s going on. Lain is missing and I am helping the detective look for her.” She paused and listened as his silence lasted for several seconds too long. He was upset.