Whispers in the Dark

Despite the lies that you’re making.

Your love is mine for the taking.

 

Liam woke to the sound of his iPod blasting “Whispers in the Dark” by Skillet. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and turned the iPod off. Then he hopped out of bed and got ready for work.

He picked up the portfolio bag off the table in the kitchen of his small apartment. He grabbed a yogurt on his way out and opened a can for his kitten. She was still sleeping in her plush bed and he left the apartment quietly.

In his car “Whispers in the Dark” was playing on the radio. He sighed as he drove for the newspaper agency. If only he had someone’s love to take and keep as his own.

 

My love is just waiting.

To turn your tears to roses.

 

Five A.M.

Most people would still be sleeping. Some might be getting ready for work.

But not Zarina.

Five A.M.and she was out running in the cold early morning hours. She loved the feeling of the wind blowing her hair back. The exhilaration that could only be felt when no one else in the entire city was out of bed yet. She loved having the paths all to herself. After an hour of running around mountain paths and trails she stopped at the edge of a small cliff and sat down with her legs hanging off and swinging back and forth.

She only had to wait a few minutes before the sun began to rise. The sky turned pink, then orange, then a light shade of red before the sun was actually visible.

Zarina let up a small prayer of thanks to God for letting her see yet another sunrise before getting up and running back to her home to get ready for another day of work at the smallConnecticutnewspaper agency where she had finally realized her dreams of being a journalist.

 

Despite the lies that you’re making.

Your love is mine for the taking.

 

Liam entered the agency and found that yet again he was super early and yet he was still only the second person in the building. Once again, as always, Zarina was the first person in the building. She was sitting in her little cubicle, typing away on her little computer. The only light in the entire building that was on was over her.

Liam switched the light switch for the rest of the long floor and Zarina turned her head to smile at him.

“One of these days, Zar,” he muttered. “One of these days I’m going to get here before you! Just you watch!”

She stopped typing and looked over at him as he put his stuff down in his own cubicle, the one right next to hers. “I’m sure you will, Liam, I’m sure.” Then she went back to her frantic typing.

“What are you working on?” he asked.

She answered without stopping. “How the food school cafeterias feed students is depleting their brain energy and causing them to become more sluggish and dumb.”

“Is it true?” Liam asked in wonder.

Zarina stopped typing to look at him. She looked like she was considering the question. Then she shrugged. “Who knows? Carter says the story will sell.” She frowned at this. But simply shrugged and went back to typing.

“Is that all that matters here, what’s going to sell?” Liam muttered to himself as he sat down. His back was to Zarina now and so he didn’t see her turn her chair to face him and give him a look of total comprehension and understanding.

 

My love is just waiting.

To turn your tears into roses.

 

Zarina turned away from Liam’s back and went back to her story. But suddenly she found she couldn’t type out the ridiculous story anymore.

Was this why she had wanted to be a journalist? To spew out random nonsensical stories and make a profit off them?

She slowly turned back to Liam. But he was hunched over his own computer, spewing out a story of his own.

Here was finally someone who understood what she had been trying to struggle with her entire life. She had always wanted to be a major journalist, working with the big stories. But she had been stuck with this desk job where all she ever did was write out whatever Carter, the editor of the newspaper, wanted her to.

Just then, Carter himself, the third person to enter the building every day, showed up. “Working on that food story?” he asked her as he passed by. Zarina simply nodded in reply. “Good, good,” he muttered as he went on.

 

I will be the one that’s gonna hold you.

I will be the one that you run to.

 

Liam watched Carter walk to his office and felt like slapping him for being so nonchalant with Zarina. Liam didn’t know why the sudden urge to defend Zarina had welled up inside of him. He had never talked to Zarina more than their early morning talks when they were the only two people in the building. It wasn’t like Zarina was his sister or his girlfriend or anything.

So why had he wanted to defend her?

“Hey, Zar,” Liam whispered to her.

She turned to look at him. “What?” She was whispering, too, even though Carter was the only other person in the entire building.

“What do you say we go find out about this brain-energy-depleting food?” He grinned. “We’re journalists, aren’t we? Shouldn’t we go verify our sources and all that good stuff?”

Zarina smiled at him and for the first time he noticed what a pretty little smile she had. She didn’t wear any makeup. She didn’t need to. Her face was flawless and beautiful. Her large green eyes were all seeing and all knowing. Liam felt like she could read him like a book with those leaf-green eyes.

“Seriously?” she asked. Carter didn’t let his lower journalists go out in the field because he didn’t think they were ready for it. But how could you be a journalist without getting out there in the real world?

Liam nodded. “If you want to.”

Zarina nodded with that dazzling smile of hers. “I would love to.”

 

My love is a burning, consuming fire.

 

Once more people finally filtered into the newspaper agency, Zarina nodded to Liam and they quietly exited the building together. Nobody noticed them leave because they were the two quietest people in the entire building. They never talked to anyone but each other, and even that was rare.

Outside, Zarina breathed in the sweet air of the morning. “Isn’t this exciting?” she asked Liam.

He nodded mutely with a smile. He hailed a taxi and they drove to the nearest elementary school, which was thirty minutes away from the agency.

Zarina looked down at her watch. “It’s only eleven-fifteen right now. It’ll be eleven-forty-five when we get there. What time do you think they eat lunch?”

Liam shrugged. “Probably aroundnoon, I would guess.”

“Then this’ll be perfect.” She smiled at him and he looked back at her with his bright sky blue eyes.

 

No, you’ll never be alone.

When darkness comes I’ll light the night with stars.

 

They reached the school in silence and Liam paid the taxi driver. Inside the young children were gathering outside their classrooms to go to lunch. Liam led Zarina to the office and they asked their strange request.

“You want to try the lunchroom food?” the plump old secretary asked in surprise. She inspected them through her little half-moon spectacles and Zarina smiled brightly. “Well, I don’t see why not…”

“Great!” Liam cheered as they walked to the cafeteria behind a class of fourth graders. Liam and Zarina grabbed a tray and ate in one corner of the lunchroom while watching and inspecting all the students.

“Doesn’t look like anyone’s brains are being fried,” Zarina commented. Liam noticed her lilting Native American accent for the first time.

He laughed. “And I don’t feel my own brain energy being depleted.”

“Carter is crazy,” Zarina decided. “Where did he even come up with that story from?”

Liam shrugged. “His brain was probably depleted as a kid.” They both laughed at that.

 

Hear my whispers in the dark.

No, you’ll never be alone.

 

After their little bonding time, Zarina nearly forgot all about Liam in the turmoil of the next few days. For the first time since she had gotten her job at the newspaper agency, not only was she not the first one in the building, but she didn’t show up at all.

She knew Carter would be disappointed. She knew Liam would have jokes for her. But none of that mattered right now.

Her mother had just died.

The funeral was held two days after her death and for the first time since the age of three, Zarina laid eyes on her father. He had skipped out on her entire life and she had never bothered to find out where, or even who, he was.

“Zarina.” Her name. Coming out of his mouth. For some reason that seemed terribly wrong to her. All the rage she never knew she had spewed out, directed at him.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded. “You left us, remember? We don’t need you! We never did and we never will!”

“Honey, listen to yourself.” His voice was calm and comforting. Kind and caring. All the things she never expected from him. She had always imagined him to be evil, rude, uncaring. “You’re still saying ‘we’ even though it’s just you now.” The tears leaked from Zarina’s eyes. She felt like a little girl again. “It doesn’t have to be just you, though. Sweetie, I’m here now.”

He hugged her, and for some reason, she didn’t push him away.

 

When darkness comes you know I’m never far.

Hear the whispers in the dark.

Whispers in the dark.

 

Liam waited three mornings. Three mornings he got to the newspaper building first. He waited for Zarina, but she never showed up. He asked Carter but Carter was just angry, saying he had chosen badly. He was in a rage over Zarina and Liam couldn’t understand why.

Then, on the third day, he saw why.

There was a crumpled up stack of papers in Carter’s trash bin. The only reason Liam noticed them at all was because they were printed on the purple sheets of paper only Zarina ever used for her stories.

He picked the papers out of the bin and read them over. It was Zarina’s cafeteria food story. As Liam’s eyes scanned the papers he felt a smile forming on his lips.

She had completely turned the story around and made it into a satirical piece on how the food cafeterias fed children was giving them superpowers and making them stronger and more intelligent than ever before.

No wonder Carter was angry. No one ever went against his reporting orders. If Zarina ever came back, she probably wouldn’t find her job waiting for her.

 

You feel so lonely and ragged.

You lay there broken and naked.

 

After four days, Zarina stood in front of the newspaper agency atseven A.M.Thirty minutes later than her normal time. Twenty minutes before Carter would show up. Ten minutes after Liam would have.

She took a deep breath and walked inside the building. As always, Liam was sitting at his cubicle, typing away. She walked up behind him and tapped him on his shoulder. He jumped in surprise and turned to see her.

For some reason, the sudden smile of happy surprise and relief made her feel good. As though she actually felt good about being the cause of that smile. That relief.

“What happened to you?” Liam asked, standing up in front of her. “I was finally here before you, but you weren’t here for me to gloat to!”

Zarina shook her head with a faint smile. “Sorry, Li.” She thought about what she wanted to tell him. What her excuse should be. But she found that she wanted to tell him the truth. “My mother died. I was at her funeral.”

Liam’s smile faded into a pained expression. “I’m so sorry!” He hugged her.

This man who she hardly knew, who hardly knew her, who had never met her mother, hugged her. She didn’t and couldn’t entirely understand this, but she was grateful for the gesture.

“Thank you,” she muttered into his shoulder through her tears. “Thank you.”

 

My love is just waiting.

To clothe you in crimson roses.

 

Just then, Carter stalked into the building and pulled them apart. “What is the meaning of this?” he demanded of Zarina. Liam felt the urge to slap the editor come over him again.

“You think you can turn in nonsense like that, skip out on work for three days, and just come back to your job like nothing happened?”

Zarina looked at him with genuine fear on her pretty little face.

And that did it for Liam.

He couldn’t stop his hand from flying. He couldn’t stop the words from leaving his mouth.

“Don’t you ever talk to her like that again!”

Carter stared at him in shock for a full minute before regaining his composure. “And don’t you ever come back into this office again.” The words were said quietly, threateningly.

 

I will be the one that’s gonna find you.

I will be the one that’s gonna guide you.

 

Zarina and Liam left the building together. When they stood under the sky it was as though God decided they hadn’t had enough misfortune for one day and opened up the sky over them. The rain came so fast that they were soaked before they even crossed the street.

But it was okay, because they were laughing. Zarina looked at Liam and laughed harder. “I can’t believe you did that!”

“I can’t believe you wrote that superpower piece!” he said in response.

“You saw that?” she asked with a huge grin. Her hair was sticking to her face in clumps.

“And I loved it!” His hair was streaming into his eyes.

“Well, one good thing came out of this,” Zarina said.

“What’s that?” Liam asked.

“I wasn’t the only one to lose her job!” She took off running down the street before he could shove her and he went running after her. She ran into the middle of the street with Liam and they danced in the rain, not caring who was watching.

 

My love is a burning, consuming fire.

 

“I have a problem,” Zarina said suddenly. The rain had stopped and they were walking through a trail in a park with hot chocolates to help them warm up.

“What’s that?” Liam asked, taking a sip from his drink.

“I don’t have a home.”

He stopped and looked at her. She stopped a few feet in front of him and looked back at him with sad green eyes. She nodded and began walking again. He hurried to keep pace with her.

“The insurance agency is taking my mother’s apartment. She was apparently involved in the drug business.” Zarina’s voice choked over the word ‘drug’. “I had no idea.” She kicked a boulder on the side of the trail. “I can’t believe I was so blind. It wasn’t my father who had left willingly; it was my mother who had forced him out.”

Liam stared at her in surprise. He hadn’t even known her father had left her.

“And now my father wants me to move out into the country with him. But I…I can’t. I love the city!” The anguish in her voice was enough to tell him that.

And he suddenly offered something he would never have offered anyone else. “You want to use my apartment until you can get a place of your own?”

She looked so happy with the offer that he was sure he had made the right choice.

 

No, you’ll never be alone.

When darkness comes I’ll light the night with stars.

 

Zarina packed her meager amount of belongings into two small bags. Liam carried one and she carried the other down to the taxi. They drove to Liam’s apartment building and Liam opened his door on the third floor. His apartment was much larger than her mother’s had been. And much cleaner.

Zarina had begun to realize her mother wasn’t the angel she always imagined after finding out about the drug deals her mother had been a part of.

No wonder her mother had always been such a bad alcoholic and such a mean and rude person generally. But Zarina had always attributed these things to the loss of her husband. She never could have imagined that these things were thereasonshe lost her husband.

Liam’s apartment was much better. Only problem was, he only had one bedroom. And only one bed.

She offered to sleep on the floor, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He had already set himself up on the sofa in the small living room.

“Thank you so much for this, Liam.” She could hardly express her gratitude in words.

 

Hear my whispers in the dark.

No, you’ll never be alone.

 

Liam slept on the sofa that night and in the morning he found Zarina to be gone.

Her things were still in the room, but she was gone. It was seven and for a moment he thought that maybe she had gone back to the agency. But that was nonsense. Why would she do that?

Just then, the door to his apartment opened and he whirled around, ready to meet any intruder in his pajamas.

Zarina stood there, a smile on her face. She grinned at his karate stance. She closed the door behind her and placed the keys back on their hook by the door. “Were you panning on attacking me?” she asked. She was wearing running clothes and was sweating.

“Where were you?” he asked, relaxing.

“I went out for a run. Sorry, I should have told you I do that…”

Liam waved her off. “Nah. This is your home now, remember? Do here what you would have done in your old home.”

Zarina smiled her lovely smile. “Thanks, Liam. Thanks so much.”

“Anytime, doll.” He grinned and helped himself to a bowl of cereal after opening a can of catfood for his kitten. “So, ready to go job hunting? I’ve already got a few interviews lined up.”

“Actually,” Zarina said with a mischievous grin. “I’ve kinda got a job for us. Ready when we are.”

“What’s that?” Liam asked.

“The New York Times!” she cried out happily. “I know it’s an hour away and all, but what better opportunity could we possibly get?”

“New York Times? THENew York Times? How did you manage to get us jobs there?” Liam asked in surprise.

“They bought one of my stories. And I said the only way they could have it was by hiring both of us.” She smiled radiantly at him as though she was too good and knew it.

“Which story?” he asked.

“My mother’s.”

 

When darkness comes you know I’m never far.

Hear the whispers in the dark.

 

Zarina typed away on her little laptop. She was sitting on the bed in Liam’s room with her large glasses on. Liam had laughed when he first saw her with them on. But she figured that if this apartment was going to be her home for a while, then she was going to treat it as so.

She had done a bit more research on her mother’s affiliation with the underground drug business here inConnecticutand had found that her mother had been a bigger person than she could ever have imagined. Her mother hadorchestratedthe entire business! And the deals didn’t end inConnecticut; they went all the way toNew York, toWashington, to everywhere. And her mother had been behind it all.

Zarina couldn’t believe what she had found at first when she had gone through her mother’s desk drawers. The letters looked fake. A joke from one of her boyfriends. But upon further research she had found that wasn’t true. The letters were all very much real.

“What are you working on?” Liam asked as he walked into the room.

“The story,” Zarina replied without looking up. They had gone to theTimesagency earlier that morning for their interview just to find they had been completely accepted. The editor had seen their work in theConnecticutpaper and deemed them both responsible and capable of handling the tougher and more important issues that theTimeswould be dealing with.

Liam hesitated in the doorway, as Zarina saw from her peripheral vision. She looked up at him through her large glasses. “What’s the matter?”

“Are you sure you don’t want to give this story to someone else?” he asked.

Zarina looked at him in puzzlement. “Why would I want to do that? This is the biggest thing I’ve ever had!”

“I know, but it’s just so…close to you.”

Zarina couldn’t reply to that. She knew it was true. It was what was keeping her from going even deeper. She didn’twantto uncover any more of her mother’s lies. Any more of her mother’s secret life. She just didn’t want to know about it.

 

No, you’ll never be alone.

When darkness comes I’ll light the night with stars.

 

Liam called up Zarina’s dad using the number she had scrawled on a sheet of paper on the side table. She was out on her morning jog. They had begun working at theTimesthe day before. He had absolutely loved it.

But he had seen the way Zarina had acted about the story. She didn’t want to share it anymore. She didn’t want anyone to know about her mother’s affiliation with the drug deals.

But that was the only way they had gotten their jobs. Without the story they would soon be out on the streets again.

He didn’t want to do anything to hurt her, but he felt her father needed to be here for this. She was lonely, thinking about what her mother had done all by herself. She needed her father to help her get through the revelations.

“Hello? Hi, sir, this is Liam. I’m a friend of Zarina’s. I was just wondering…”

 

Hear the whispers in the dark.

No, you’ll never be alone.

 

Zarina opened Liam’s apartment door and found a surprise waiting for her inside.

“Dad?”

Her father was standing in the middle of the living room. He opened his arms and without thinking she rushed into them.

“Dad, I’m so sorry!” she sobbed into his shoulder. “All these years I thought you had simply walked out on us!”

“I know, honey, I know.” He stroked her hair as she went on about all the terrible things she had said to him on the day of the funeral. “I’m sorry, too, sweetheart.” He was calm through it all and when Zarina finally stopped crying she stepped back and looked at him.

“How did you get here? How did you know where I was?” she asked. She hadn’t bothered to tell him she wasn’t going to be staying with him. She had still been mad at him at the time.

“An angel told me where to find you. Now, let’s see all that research you’ve done, shall we?”

Together they sat and looked through everything Zarina had dug up on her mother and her mother’s affiliates. They pieced the entire story together and Zarina’s father did the typing. He deemed her too emotionally attached to the story to be able to do it. And since he had been a writer once upon a time, this worked out very well.

 

When darkness comes you know I’m never far.

Hear the whispers in the dark.

 

Liam had left the apartment right before Zarina got in. He hadn’t wanted to be there to interrupt them while they worked.

He had decided to simply walk around the neighborhood. He hadn’t had a morning to himself like this since he left school. He wasn’t used to the freedom. Carter had his employees come in everyday, including Saturday and Sunday. TheTimesgave the weekends off.

It was nice to go out and feel the cold breeze wafting at his face. He took a deep breath and then exhaled.

He passed some hours like this before finally turning back toward his apartment. Inside he found Zarina and her father sitting with their papers sprawled all over the ground. There was hardly any space to walk.

“Nice to see you guys are getting some work done.” He grinned and skipped around the papers to get to his room. “Just came to get some stuff. Don’t let me intrude upon your story-making.” But there was no reason for him to have said anything at all. The pair of journalists hadn’t even bothered to look up from the papers when he had walked inside.

He grabbed his coat and laptop from his room and left the apartment again. He was ready to start making some stories of his own for theTimes.

 

Whispers in the dark.

Whispers in the dark.

 

Zarina and her father took a break from the papers and research to have some coffee.

“So, howdidyou know where I was? I don’t think I told anyone where I was staying,” Zarina asked of her father.

He took a long sip of his coffee before replying. “Your friend, that Liam kid, called me up. Said you needed some help with this story.”

“Liam called you?” Zarina was surprised. How had Liam known her father was the perfect person to call for this?

“He said you were feeling lonely with the story. Needed someone else who shared the experience to help guide you.”

“That was mighty thoughtful of him,” Zarina commented.

Her father laughed. “Mighty thoughtful? That’s all you can say? Zar, the guy’s half mad for you! I would assume you’d think what he did was more than just ‘thoughtful’! He cares about you. A lot.”

Zarina stared at her father in shock. “Liam? Cares? Aboutme? Father, I highly doubt the truth in that statement.”

Her father took another long sip of his coffee and looked at her as though it didn’t make a difference to him either way. “Doubt the statement or don’t doubt it. But it’s a statement of truth either way.”

Zarina thought about this for about another five seconds. Then she made her decision. She placed her mug on the countertop and started walking to the door.

“Where are you going?” her father called after her.

“To make sure I don’t lose something precious by not showing it how muchIcare!” With that, Zarina left the apartment in search of Liam.

She needed to tell him he wasn’t the only mighty thoughtful person in this relationship.

 

No, you’ll never be alone.

The End

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