I woke up with tears running down my face and soaking my pillow. I'd dreamed about that night again... As I had every night since it happened a week ago. I took several deep breaths praying that the sharp agony that pierced my heart would soon be taken over by the numbness again.
Since I lost Adam, there were only two things I had been capable of feeling: numbness that was so deep I could barely form a coherent conversation with someone, and agonizing pain that would basically cripple me. I cried myself to sleep at night and woke up the same way in the morning.
Forcing myself to get out of bed, I picked my outfit off the floor. I had bought one spare outfit, when I reached a town several miles from where I used to live. I knew Adam would not want me to be living on the streets, so I had been staying in a hotel room for the past four days. I knew I would attract attention if I only had the clothes on my back, so I had bought a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, so I could alternate clothes.
I shuffled to the bathroom, the numb feeling setting in once more. I glanced in the streaky mirror and saw how bad I looked. My eyes, once bright, beautiful, and emerald green, had become dull and bloodshot. My copper hair was usually shiny, straight, and full of volume; now it was dull, lifeless, and flat. Normally, my skin was pretty pale, but it had a healthy pink tint to it. Now, I simply looked white. Like I had been sick for a very long time. I definitely didn't look healthy.
Sighing, I undressed and stepped into the shower. I turned the water on as hot as I could stand it and let it relax my always tense muscles. My brain felt so fuzzy as I washed my hair; the numbness had finally set in entirely. Finally, I got out, got dressed and walked back out into the main room, to plan what I needed to do for the day.
I sat down on and old, partially broken down sofa. I didn't want to get up and go do anything. I knew, however, that I needed to get some things done. I needed to use my parents' ATM card (they had left Adam and me well over a million dollars when they died) to get some money out.
Once I had some cash, I could buy some clothes and food. I might be able to get even further away...maybe to a city where one would ever question me.
I picked up the small plastic card from the nightstand by my bed. I needed air and maybe being out and about would help me think a little. I could not stand the pale green walls, cream colored curtains, and white bedding anymore. I was going to go insane. I opened the door and walked out, hearing it click and lock. Not that I cared if anyone got inside. Nothing important was in there.
As I stepped outside, I had to squint against the glare of the sun. My shades had been drawn in the room, and I hadn't realized how bright it was out here. Great. Now people would see me. They would stare for sure. I just knew they would. The staring wouldn't bother me. I didn't care what people thought about me anymore, but I didn't want their attention. I didn't want to talk to anyone.
I walked off the hotel property and down the road. There was a mini mall not far away; I needed to find a store with an ATM somewhere. Luckily for me, there was a small grocery store among the clothing shops and food places. I stepped inside and quickly got three hundred dollars. I needed to buy some more clothes. Not that I really wanted to go into a packed store where there would be a lot of people, all talking loudly to one another.
I finally took a deep breath and pushed open the door into a small clothing store, without looking at what it was called. To my surprise, there weren't many people inside. Maybe I had chosen the right time to come outside. There didn't seem to be many people around anywhere really. What day was it? I hadn't been paying attention. My days and nights had become blurred into one long, drawn out frame of time. It must have been during the week, so many people would be at work or school.
I wanted to make this quick, so I avoided all employees and the few customers who might talk to me or try to help me choose clothes. I didn't pay much attention to what I pulled off the shelves and racks; just anything that looked inconspicuous for a seventeen-year-old to wear. It took me twenty minutes to choose five shirts and five pairs of jeans. They cost one hundred-fifty dollars. Half of the money I had taken out was already gone.
After paying for my clothes, I looked up, past the cashier and saw something that took my breath away. I swear I saw the top of Adam's head above a rack of clothes. His shaggy copper hair and those brilliant green eyes. I would know him anywhere.
"Are you okay?" the woman behind the counter asked, looking as if she might think I was crazy.
"Yes...I-I'm fine... Can I leave this bag here for just a minute? I think I just saw the perfect pair of jeans over there."
I quickly walked away from the counter, toward the rack of clothes I thought I had seen Adam. I knew this was ridiculous. Adam had died; I knew this, but something drew me toward that spot, as if my subconscious was still insure and had to have the fact proven.
I rounded the clothes and looked in the direction I had seen my brother's head going. The only people in this aisle were a young mother and her toddler. She was looking frustrated and had to keep stopping her daughter from running through the clothing racks. I hated to add to her distractions, but I needed to know something. I walked over to her and tapped her on the shoulder.
She turned to me, looking as if I had frightened her.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you... I was just wondering if I might be able to ask you something?"
"Um....Ok," She looked uncertain, "What do you need?"
"Well... I was just wondering if you saw that guy just walk through here? He has copper hair, green eyes... He basically looks a lot like me."
"No, sorry, hun. I've been looking through these clothes to buy something for my niece's birthday... Plus, little Sammy here keeps most of my attention from people walking by. I didn't see anyone." She didn't look annoyed at my question as I had thought she might be, but rather upset that she was unable to be of any help to me.
"Oh," I forced a laugh, hoping it sounded more casual than forced, "Thanks, anyway. My brother was supposed to meet me here, and I was hoping I had just seen him."
I turned and quickly walked away, hoping to avoid further conversation. I felt so stupid; I had known Adam had not walked down that aisle in this store- he was dead. Why, in that case, would I let my imagination do this to me? Why did I allow my subconscious to force me to feel false hope that I knew would ultimately cause me major pain? I don't know. Maybe I'm going insane. Maybe I really need help.
"Thank you." I said, quickly. I grabbed my bag off the counter and tried to get away quickly. The hot, burning sensation was forming behind my nose and I knew I was about to cry.
"Hey, are you sure you're alright?" she sounded genuinely concerned now.
"Yeah, thanks," I said, walking out the door.
As soon as I was outside, a single tear fell from my eye. I wanted to go somewhere and be alone. I didn't want to be seen by anyone. I had known coming out in public would be a bad idea; I should have listened to instinct, rather than going by my stubborn will. I needed to get back to the hotel; I only hoped I could hold myself together until then.
Cars sped by me, as I hurried back to the shabby hotel, where I could be alone. I was almost hit by several on my way, because my mind was entirely off my surroundings. People honked their horns and yelled at me as they drove by. I didn't care, all I cared about was being in my dark room, where I didn't have to see or be near anyone. I didn't want to hear the voices of people, I didn't want to see their faces or hear their laughter. I was not among them. I was an outsider in the world I used to know.
As soon as I got back to my room, I slammed the door shut and collapsed in a chair. My tears flowed freely from my eyes, like a dam that had been broken. The pain in my chest was worse than ever; it felt as if it was going to make me explode. I knew the pain was back for good. Nothing would make it go away. The numbness wouldn't even return. I was sure of that.
At some point, I have no clue when, I fell asleep. For once, I actually didn't dream. There was no pain, no sadness, just the dark velvet of sleep.
Bang bang bang! The hard, loud sound broke through my sleep. I grumbled and sat up, wiping the tears off my face and looking around with bleary eyes. Who would be knocking on my door? I had no one I wanted to be around and no one I knew from home even knew where I had gone. Maybe some of them even thought I was dead.
Bang bang bang!
"I'm coming, chill out." I said, getting up off the floor (I had apparently fallen out of my chair while I was sleeping).
I unlocked and opened my door, to see a tall, strong-looking man standing there. He had tanned skin and dark eyes. He wore a dark green tee-shirt and a pair of jeans. He had shoulder-length black hair that was covered by a Yankees hat. I fleetingly thought how seriously Adam had taken baseball; he hated the Yankees. He was a die-hard Red Sox fan... It was crazy how much a stupid hat could make me want to cry. "Can I help you?" I asked, not bothering to be polite or lively.
"Yes, are you Amelia Anderson?"
"Maybe... who wants to know?"
"I do. I need to bring you somewhere, Amelia. Can I come in?"
"I don't even know you, you think I'm going to let you into my room?! Or even better- you think I'm going to let you take me on some road trip?!" I was getting angry. This was good. Better than the pain or the numbness.
"My name is Max Stevens. I'm here to tell you important news about your family. Your mother gave me specific instructions to do this, if you or your brother were ever alone with no one to help you out."
I glared at him, "How the Hell do you know my mother?"
He sighed, as if he was getting tired of how uncooperative I was being. This gave me silent pride, "Yes. I knew her. We worked together. She was, for lack of a better name, my boss."
My eyes narrowed, "Do you know who killed her?"
"Unfortunately, I do not know the specific men. I do, however, know the group who ordered her death. One of the things I need your help with is taking them down. For good."
Suddenly, paranoia hit me. I was talking about this stuff with a man I didn't know, out in the hallway of a shabby hotel. Anyone could be listening in. Abandoning my fear of who he was or what his intentions could be, I stepped aside,
"If we're going to talk about this, you might as well come inside."
He nodded and stepped over the threshold. I watched him walk into the room that was a combined bedroom and living room. He looked around and gestured to the only chair,
"You should sit, this is going to be a long talk and you might want to be comfortable."
"You sit there. I'll take the bed. It's easier for me to listen, when I'm not at such a low angle to the person who's talking to me."
He gave me a funny look, as if he didn't quite agree with my thoughts, but sat down none the less and waited for me to walk over to the small bed and sit down. I curled my legs up underneath me and looked at him.
"So, you know my mother, you know the group who killed her, and you want me to help you get them. Elaborate. What is your company and why did my mother work for you anyway?"
"Actually, I am ranked under her. She was in command of my work."
I took a deep breath to steady my voice, "I don't care about ranking or who was whose boss. I want answers."
"Okay, we don't really have a company. It's an organization, a society, if you will. If you choose to go with me, I can tell you more about it and what we do. Learning about us is an experience, not a lecture. I cannot go into detail of what we do with someone who is not a member. We think you and your brother would make good additions, but we need to have you go through a number of tests before we can be sure. In learning what our society is about, you will learn what your mother did, why she did it, and why she ended up getting killed."
"Adam can't join."
"Why not? He is just as eligible as you are to be one of us."
"He's dead," I said coldly. My blood pumped like ice through my veins; that was the first time I had said it out loud. I felt like my world was imploding around me all over again. I felt like breaking down right there. I restrained the tears; I would not cry in front of this man who was no more than a stranger to me.
The man, Max, looked at me with a nearly expressionless face, "I'm sorry to hear of this... it is a great loss..."
Anger flared up again and burned away the ice in my blood and the tears in my eyes, "You didn't even know him. You don't even know the loss."
Shock touched his eyes, as if he hadn't thought of me as capable of fury like what was in my voice, "No, you're right. I never had the pleasure to meet him. But I heard many stories about you and your brother, and I know he would have been a great member to our society."
He just kept digging his hole deeper! Finally I gritted my teeth and stared him directly in the eyes, "A great member to your society? You would have been lucky to have anyone like him in any society, but that doesn't even matter! He's dead and all you give a damn about is your stupid society?!"
He took a deep breath then said quietly, "I'm sorry. That came out completely wrong, Miss
I stopped yelling at him and just sat there and stared at him. He couldn't have been more than twenty-five. He had big, brown eyes that looked so sincere. I couldn't help but calm down as he sat there and apologized, "It's Amelia, not Miss Anderson. My friends call me Melly; only the good friends."
"Okay, so will you accompany me?"
I stared at him for a moment then slowly asked, "Where exactly is this... society of yours?"
"I'm not at liberty to tell you. It's a very secret place and we do not want outsiders to know where we are. If you were to say no, that you don't want to join us, you would be able to tell everyone where we are located. It is in Pennsylvania, nobody knows where though, unless they are a member."
I thought about it for a minute. Pennsylvania was a pretty long drive away from Maine. Bangor, Maine, to be exact. Did I really want to be cooped up in a small car of some kind with a man I didn't know? Did I really trust him in the first place? Just what I needed, some guy telling me he was member of a secret society from Pennsylvania and he turns out to be some kind of rapist-serial killer. He could have been stalking my family in order to know things about me, to lure me into his trap when the time was right.
He seemed to know exactly what I was thinking, "Don't think I'm a murderer or anything like that. I'm not lying to you, I swear that. I won't hurt you, you'll get to the society safe and sound where you can talk to the leader."
I sighed, "It's not like I have anything to lose by going with you I guess.... I've already lost everything, anyway," I stood up, "When do we leave?"
"As soon as you're ready to go."
It took me less than five minutes to throw my dirty outfit into the bag with my new clothes and packing the few little things I had bought in the past week (toothbrush, hairbrush, etc.). When I had the few items I owned together, I said,
"Okay, are we going now?" suddenly, I was excited to get going. I figured, in Pennsylvania, there was no one who would possibly know me. No one who had a chance of being knowledgeable of my story.
"Yes, let's go," he took my bag as we walked outside and led me over to a new, blue Mustang convertible. It took my breath away. My mother's Mustang had been a '75, and it had not been a convertible. She regularly had it painted and it always looked good, but this nearly put it to shame.
I got into the front passenger seat and gaped at the shiny leather interior. I inhaled deeply to get the smell of new car and leather into my lungs. When Max got into the car, I was wearing my first genuine smile since before the night Adam died.
"I take it you like the car?" he chuckled, snapping on his seat belt and starting the engine.
I followed his lead and said, "I love it!"
He laughed again. I realized he had a nice smile. Perfectly white, straight teeth. The sound of his laughter was like music to my ears after the silence and solitude of that dingy hotel room. I suddenly realized that I felt completely safe with him. It wasn't just my fascination for the car... Max subtly reminded me of Adam. It was kind of like coming home after a long absence.
"Can I ask you something, Max?" I said, honestly surprising myself that I wanted to get to know this stranger.
"Sure. It'd be a really long ride if neither of us wanted to talk."
"How old are you?"
"Twenty-one. Why do you ask?"
"Just curious... You seemed really professional back at the room and it made you seem older.
Now you're more relaxed and you seem really young."
I saw his eyes sparkle happily, as he said, "It's part of my job to be professional. When I was trying to get you to come along, I had to be like that. Now that you've agreed to come, I can relax and be a normal person."
I settled comfortably in my seat, ready for the long ride. Maybe I had just made a new friend, someone I might be able to trust.