Chapter 16

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December 2, 2012 by Vee Villarreal

Miranda – Present

Miranda was busy helping Aaron wash the paint off his hands in the sink when Tara approached her holding up her finished work.

“Oh, that’s lovely.” She gushed over the watercolor sunset.  It was encouraging to see that at least one of her students was catching on to her lesson plan.  “Go ahead and hang it on the wall with the others, Tara.”  She waved the little girl off in time to set down Aaron and dry off his hands with a towel.  Aaron was eight, but he was so petite that he still couldn’t reach the sink without a boost.

She called her students back to their seats now that their art lesson was over for the morning and the tables were cleared and cleaned.  It was time to start their history lesson; one of her favorite subjects, a sentiment she felt sure her class didn’t share with her.  Maybe they were still getting used to school and being inside for so many hours in a day, but most likely it was due to a lack of interest in areas of study that seemed so detached from their lives.  That is why she’d decided to abandon her original lesson plans and rewrite them, beginning with a new chapter on the written history of Mutants.  With the help of her parents and some dusty textbooks she dug up from her sophomore year, she was able to put together a fairly detailed account of the events leading up to and resulting from the Wakening.  She’d started the lecture the week prior and had noticed an immediate peak in her class’ attention, though there were more than a few puzzled expressions as well.  Not that she was surprised; it was difficult to make every lesson age appropriate when your students spanned from six to fourteen years of age.

“Okay, last week we started off discussing some of the myths and legends of the Pre-Wakening era that historians consider to be proof of Mutant existence in ancient times.  Then, if you’ll recall, we discussed the events that lead to the World War.  Now who can tell me what three major advances in technology allowed for conclusive evidence to surface as to the existence of genetically-mutated humans?”  She waited patiently for a hand to rise.  She almost began to answer for them when Ellie, the oldest and usually most timid of her students, tentatively raised her hand and Miranda’s spirit lifted just a bit. “Yes, Ellie?”

The mousey brunette stuttered a bit to start, but managed to find her voice and surprisingly remembered the answer correctly.  “The Transatlantic Telegraph Cable allowed for rapid communication between the former world powers.  Shortly after that film and moving pictures allow people to take photographic evidence of Mutants, although nobody took it seriously at first.”  The girl blushed fiercely as she finished answering and Miranda gave her a reassuring smile.

“Very good, and what event marked the beginning of the World War?”

One of her favorites, a tall and lanky boy named Martin who had a clumsy tendency to get bruised and scraped up, appearing with new blemishes nearly every day, raised his hand, beaming confidently.  She acknowledged him with a nod of her head.

“Didn’t somebody kill that hungry duke guy?”  He snorted with laughter when his classmates chuckled at his answer.  She couldn’t help but grin when Tara corrected him.

“It’s Hungarian, not hungry, dummy.”  A renewed burst of laughs broke out.

“Alright, settle everybody.  You were almost there, Martin.  That Hungarian ‘duke guy’ was the Archduke Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  His death sparked the Great World War.  Now this is important for several reasons.  The first is that this war involved many world powers that spanned multiple continents.  This is also the first time that we see trench warfare being used.  This style of warfare allowed for more anonymity, or cover, for mutant soldiers, because of this they utilized their abilities on the battlefield.  However, this lead to a huge increase in stories of strange occurrences being reported in the media.  The former European nations experienced a panic and convened to sign a peace treaty just two years after the start of the war.

“Representatives from countries around the globe traveled to the city of Paris to discuss the Mutant issue.”  She pointed to a pull down map as a reference, though it wasn’t much help.  She had found weeks before that the children had never seen a world map before and had no concept of the globe or where one sector ended and the next began.

“Now I know that some of you come from families that immigrated to the Pacific Sector long after this time.  Have any of your parents mentioned or told stories about these events and what happened in some of the sectors after the Wakening?”

Tara immediately raised her hand and Miranda called on her. “My grandda’ talked about some place called Germany, where he was born. When all the kings came to Paris to talk about the Mutants he said that people were hunting them down like animals and he said there was always fighting in the streets.  His da’ had to close up his shop because someone threw a brick through their big glass window and it wasn’t safe.  Someone even killed the king and his wife.  When they packed up and tried to leave he said that the military had posted men at all the roads and they wouldn’t let no one leave or come in.  My granddad and his family had to cross through fields at night into another zone and take a ship to here.”

“Yes, Tara many world leaders were assassinated during this period of unrest and their families were often kidnapped or killed as well on suspicion of being a Mutant.”

Ellie raised her hand then. “My grandparents lived in the capitol before the war broke out, back when it was the United States of America.  They worked for Globalnetics there.”

“They did?” Miranda was surprised by the revelation.

“Uh huh.  They lived in someplace called Philadelphia.  My grandpa was a scientist and he said all these big scientists from all over old Europe were rushing to America for work and no one knew why.  My grandpa, he invented some test that could tell if somebody was a Mutant or not.”

Miranda was even more surprised now, how did this child’s family end up all the way out here. “Your grandfather worked on the Ident. Project?”

“I guess so.”

“Well, that brings us to the next major development.  We will discuss all of these elements in greater depth in the near future, but for now I’ll give you the highlights.  As Ellie mentioned a kit was created that could easily detect mutant DNA.  Globalnetics, which existed as a medical technology corporation at the time, manufactured and distributed these kits around the globe.  Unfortunately, this backfired for many government powers.  As more people were identified as mutants, hysteria was renewed.  Reports of massive rioting and genocide poured in from Asia, Africa, Europe and South America.  Governments toppled and countries fell to ruin.  Many parts of the world became constant war zones, knocking out infrastructure: roads, communication, water, and electricity.  This was further increased when a large shipment of faulty tests was distributed from Europe through to Asia and Africa.  The units identified subjects overwhelmingly as positive for Mutant DNA.

“Even though the area that now encompasses the capitol region was largely undisturbed by the violent events of these decades, in 1961, Globalnetics rose to become the new seat of power for the capitol and America was dissolved as a nation.  The global energy and medical technology monopoly now stood as the sole world power and they moved and divided the capitol between their two headquarters, Chicago and Philadelphia.”

From the corner of her vision she could see Kai standing in the doorway, listening in on her lecture.  He was watching her and her students with a content grin on his face.  She decided to continue since it was almost lunchtime anyways.

“The struggles that broke out continued on and off for several decades until most of the world was living without basic utilities and the isolation of mutant retreats made it more and more difficult for people to find them.  Around the same time as the formation of the Mutant-Human Alliance another group rose to answer the call of anti-Mutant violence known as the Mutant Rebellion or the Mutant Militia as some have come to call it.

“In the late 1960’s, supply lines in Africa and Asia began to be interrupted frequently, often by freak natural disasters and then mysteriously in 1969, most of the city Cape Town, a major Globalnetics port, was reclaimed by the sea overnight.  This created quite a stir in the twin capitols of the Northern Sector, but ultimately did not stop the rioting and brutal treatment of suspected Mutants.  It wasn’t until the summer of 1970 that a catastrophic series of natural events, resulting in massive casualties to humans and Mutants alike that a truce was stuck.  Globalnetics, as the only power on Earth at this point fit to help rebuild, rises to true global control.  They divide the world into geographical sectors and within each sector there are many zones, some of which are arbitrarily decide, others are based on present populations or around old cities that survived the earthquakes, tidal waves and fires that ravaged the Earth.  Somehow, most of the Pacific survived the events rather unscathed.  After this point we enter a period of tentative peace known as the Resolution.  This period continues on to today and though the Mutant Rebellion still continues in isolated pockets of the Pacific and Southern Sectors, the violence of the Pre-Resolution has not reemerged.”

A small hand went up; it was Maddie, one of her youngest pupils.  Her timid voice shook as she asked her question.  “Miss Miranda, why do the humans hate us?” Her innocence and sincerity made Miranda feel as though she would cry.  She didn’t know what it was like to grow up with the world set against you and she wished these children didn’t have to live with that either.

“I don’t know, Maddie.  I don’t think that the humans hate you; you are all human after all.  It is only a small portion of your DNA that sets you apart from the genetically-pure.”   Uh, how she loathed that term, how could one monosyllabic word loom so much power over a people. “I think that people are just frightened by what they don’t understand.”

“But you’re one of them.  Aren’t you frightened?”  It wounded her to think that Martin, or any of children for that matter would worry that she might not like them, just because of their lineage.  There they all sat before her looking- no, pleading to her with their eyes for her to either justify the government’s position on mutants as second-class citizens or to take a new stand in embracing their differences.  Even Kai appeared to be anxiously awaiting her response; his dark eyes transfixed on hers with a feigned indifference, but she could see that he wanted to believe she accepted him.  She wanted to believe that too, and in so many ways she upheld the rhetoric that her parents had impressed upon her at an early age; that Mutants were no different from any other person be they white or black, male or female, young or old, gay or straight, everyone deserved to be respected and allowed the right to pursue a fit and happy life.  That part didn’t disagree with her, but in truth it was hard to fully accept a group of people you feared.  And she did fear them. As fascinating and intriguing as she found Kai and his powers she had no idea what he was really capable of and the thought gave her a chill.  As though sensing her misgivings Kai looked away breaking eye contact with her and she felt truly sorry for how she felt.  Mustering her courage she addressed Martin’s question, but really she was speaking to her friend, who she desperately didn’t want to lose ground with.

“I am scared sometimes.”  She started, feeling the weight of little disappointed faces surround her. “But I’ve been afraid of a lot of things I didn’t fully understand.”  She paused trying to think of a way to salvage this situation.  “When I was young, maybe about Tara’s age, I was bitten by a neighbor’s dog, here.”  She rolled up the sleeve of her blouse to show them the jagged edged scar on her forearm. “See.  Well, after that I was terrified of them, but my little brother and sister wanted one.  One day, Summer brought home a stray she’d found outside our school.  He was a little wire-haired terrier, no bigger than a pair of boots and I threw a fit when I found him in our room.  My mother wasn’t exactly thrilled that my sister let a flea-ridden dog in the house before bathing it first, but more importantly she refused to get rid of the dog until I pet him, because she said I couldn’t go my whole life being afraid of something after just one bad experience.  It took two weeks of avoiding the little hairball, but eventually he wore me down and one night at the dinner table I bent down to pet him and he licked my hand; I melted.  I was judging all dogs by what happened to me with one dog, even though before I was bitten I loved every animal I came across.  I didn’t realize at the time that the one that bit me had probably been abused or trained to be mean, he wasn’t really a bad dog at all, I just wasn’t paying attention to his warnings.  Once I learned that, dogs weren’t so scary anymore.  Now, you all are in no way animals and you’re far more complicated to get to know, but you’re helping me to better understand you every day and I like each and every one of you.”  She got a few smiles with that at least.

“Well, I think that’s enough for the morning.  Go get some lunch, guys.”  As the children excitedly filed out of the classroom, Kai swiftly moving from the doorway so that they could slip past him, Miranda yelled after them.  “Be sure to watch the little ones.  I want everybody to make it to Miss Summer’s class.”  Her stomach clenched as the last straggler left leaving her alone with Kai.  She opened her mouth to say something of an apology, but Kai cut her off, raising his hand.

“It’s fine, Miranda.  I’m not upset with you.  You can’t help the way you feel.”  His rich, brown eyes scanned her face as she approached him.

“I could try to deny it,” she managed finally.

“I’m glad you didn’t.  You aren’t the first person to fear me, Miranda.  Even other Mutants find Kopi and I a bit intimidating, but I can’t help what I am, though I may do my best to hide it.”

“Why do you try to hide?” She didn’t understand the point when everyone in the zone already knew what he was.

“I don’t enjoy being unusual, I would prefer that people feel comfortable around me.  They know what I am, but I don’t have to remind them of what I can do all the time.”

“I don’t understand.  I mean it might make me or other outsiders nervous, but the people here are used to Mutants.”

Kai stifled a laugh then, unable to control the grin creeping across his face.  “Firstly, Mutants don’t generally use their abilities all that often, and secondly, Kopi and I are not like the others.  If I showed you what I could really do-,” he paused, his pace turned downward as he thought for a moment and she wondered what he was so worried about.  His eyes shot back to her and the smile had vanished when he continued.  “If you saw my powers, I don’t think you would want to be around me anymore.”

Wow.  What in the world could he do?  She’d seen him in the garden and she knew he managed to walk somehow when he wanted to, which was amazing, but not exactly fright-worthy.

“You’re not that scary, Kai.” She tried to be lighthearted about it, but she could feel her pulse quicken when his expression darkened, becoming all the more serious.

“And I’d like to keep it that way.” They fell into silence then.   Miranda’s mind was racing.  She didn’t want Kai to start shying away from her again, but she also couldn’t be sure that she wouldn’t spook.

She touched her fingertips gently over his forearm, as much for her own reassurance as for his. He jumped at the contact, as he always did, but instead of backing away completely he stayed still, allowing her to continue touching him.

“Would you go with me to the square later?”  Changing the subject was the best idea she had for lightening their mood.

Kai seemed puzzled by the sudden change in conversation. “Sure, now?”

“Whenever you’re available.  I just feel like getting out for a bit.”

“I have to check back in with your dad first, but I’ll come find you when I’m ready, okay?”

“Great.”  She smiled then as he readied himself to leave, adjusting himself over the crutches.

“Kai?”  She stopped him half way through the doorway.  He turned to look over his shoulder at her. “Why the crutches?  I know you don’t need them.”

The color drained from his face.  “Uh- of course I need them.  Without them I’d be hopping on one leg.”

“No.  You left them at the house after our last session and you managed to walk home and back just fine.”  Kai stared at her unmoving and a long pause filled the space between them before he sighed and spoke again.

“You’re right.  I was upset and I just wanted to get away quickly, which if you haven’t noticed is tough on these.”  He motioned with the crutches.

“So, if you don’t need them, why do you use them?  I would think they’d be a real burden.  And how do you do it?”

“Do what?”

“Walk without one leg?”

He turned his body back around to face her and checking around them for anyone else he set his crutches against the classroom wall and carefully balanced on his right leg, he bent over and rolled up the leg of his pants to expose the stump of his left, starting just below the knee.  At first she couldn’t tell if her eyes were playing tricks on her or if what she saw swirling in a cylinder down from Kai’s knee was real.  She stepped back.  Within seconds a translucent, fluid-looking foot formed in place of where Kai once had flesh and bone.  It was beautiful to see; she just couldn’t believe what she was looking at.

“Wh-,” she stuttered, astounded into silence.

She wanted to reach out and touch it, wondering if she could reach right through it.  It didn’t look like water in a glass might, more like it was held together by some sort of thin membrane.  Kai set the foot against the floor and stood, for the first time in front of her, on both legs.   He looked suddenly taller and prouder standing there on his own.  Kai cleared his throat and she finally let out the breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding.

“That’s just- wow.” She was staring, hard and all she could manage to say was coming out in incoherent mumbles.  Kai blushed a color so deep it was almost purple. “I’m sorry, Kai.  It’s just- well, it’s,” she fumbled for the right word to describe it, “spectacular.”

“Spectacular?”  Kai’s face turned a shade darker, if that was even possible and he hurried to unroll the pant leg and hide the apparition from sight.

“No, wait.” She knelt down to stop him, covering his hands in hers.  She tried to ignore the cringe of his  face when she held his hands, did he really hate being touched that much or was it just her?  “Can I touch it?”

Kai audibly swallowed and escaping her grasp rose up slightly.  “Yeah,” he said shakily.

Miranda tentatively touched his leg, so nervous that it was more of a stiff poke and when Kai responded to the touch with a surprised hop she jumped in reaction.  Holy crap he could feel it; like a real leg.  Further intrigued she stroked the shin- could you still call it a shin if there was no bone, she wondered.  Kai noticeably shivered; whatever held the watery appendage together gave way under her fingers and testing it she pressed with more force.  She let out a high-pitched squeak as her fingers slipped through invisible barrier and could feel the cool, wet sensation of the water beneath.  She stood up quickly and looked questionably at Kai who was still bright red and more than a little uncomfortable.

“Did I hurt you?”  She asked.

“No. But I should go.” Hastily he covered the apparition with the unrolled pant leg, but didn’t force it to disappear and didn’t take up his crutches when he turned to leave.  “I’ll come back to get you when I’m done.” He smiled weakly and headed back to the house.

Now alone and still mildly shaken by her recent experiences with Mutants she sat down at her desk.  Forcing herself to not think about Kai and his mysterious water-limb, it didn’t take long for her mind to drift back to the memories that had been predominating her thoughts lately.  She kept replaying the summer she’d spent with Max, one of her Father’s graduate students at the time, and her first love.  She could almost taste the sweet berry wine on the back of her throat and feel her heart beating wildly as she reimagined the night she became a woman. Oh God I am really pathetically lonely if I’m reminiscing about that.  Miranda groaned as she leaned back in her chair and rubbed furiously at her temples.  This place is going to be the death of me.

****

Kai – Present

Why? Why had she asked about his leg; he grumbled. And why in the world had he shown it to her?  Then she’d touched him, and not for the first time this morning; she was always touching him, but this time she’d touched his leg.  No, she’d stroked his leg; he shuddered remembering the sensation.  It hadn’t been a short pet; Miranda had lingered there, caressing the front of his lower leg and it had felt good.  Amazing in fact, her fingertips creating a buzz over his skin, and not just where she’d touched, but everywhere.  As he turned the corner on the path toward the house, he mumbled to himself and shook his head.  The woman was slowly driving him insane; he shouldn’t be looking to spend the afternoon with her, he should be running in the opposite direction.  Oh, and when her fingers had penetrated the apparition’s seal he’d never felt anything like that.  He closed his eyes for a second, as he was hit with a strong wave of desire at the memory.  He shook his head again, only harder this time.  Crazy, that was it, he was going insane; teetering on the brink of sanity and Miranda was pushing him over the edge.  She was destroying his calm and control with her incessant touching and those damned tight dresses.

He kicked up dirt along the path with his left foot, still naked below the ankle since he hadn’t expected to need the other shoe; it was nice to walk like normal again he mused, making his way up the stairs.  He despised those crutches and the looks he received when he used them; pity mingled with disgust.  But after so many years a man could get used to anything.  As he reached for the door knob the heavy door burst open and Kopi almost slammed right into him as he hurried to exit.

“Whoa, Little Brother!” Kai stopped him with a stiff hand to his chest and Kopi turned on him, stunned momentarily.

“Kai! I was just going to find you.”  Kopi looked relieved, but it was quickly displaced by a questioning raise of one brow as he scanned Kai’s body. “Brother?”

Kai chuckled uncomfortably under the scrutinizing gaze. “I thought with the limited military presence now, I could lose the crutches.”  He knew Kopi would see through his ruse, but he had to try something to save a little of his dignity.

“Really?  Such a rash decision, Brother.”  Kopi tsked him, a sly grin creeping across his face.  “And this has nothing to do with the girl?”

Damn it, Kopi, you smug ass!  Kai bristled under his brother’s scrutinizing and condescending gaze. “I was tired of using them, and I decided to stop.  Miranda may have encouraged me, but that is all.” He harrumphed, adding a sharp nod to emphasize his point, but all it did was make him feel silly and it certainly didn’t convince his brother, whose eyes were a light with silent laughter as he watched Kai make a spectacle of himself over some woman.  Kai shifted his feet and pulled his arms defensively against his chest.  Uncomfortable now, Kai tried to shift the conversation in his favor, “You said you were looking for me?”

“Yes, I got a message from Rex.”  He just now noticed the folded slip of paper in his brother’s hand.

“What’s the news?”  The air between them turned serious in a millisecond, Rex was the leader of the sector’s rebellion forces; he rarely sent personal correspondence preferring to send simple messages through runners from one zone to the next via a giant game of ‘Telephone.’  If he was sending a letter now, the news was urgent or bad or both.

“You’ll have to read it for yourself, but they’re moving forward with their plans.  Rex wants to be ready to move by late spring.  And-.”

Kai cut him off, “And he wants you to join them in La Paz?”  Kai’s voice deepened and he felt himself scowling as he asked.

Kopi sighed, dropping the hand with the note to his side heavily.  “Yes, always.  Rex feels I’m being wasted here.”

Kai looked away from his brother, trying to focus on something in the distance, something that would ease this sharp feeling, like a blade twisting in his chest.  This wasn’t the first time they’d discussed Kopi leaving the zone to join Rex’s troops.  A wave of nausea washed over him as his mind pondered all of the violent and deadly outcomes.  Of course they wanted Kopi to be there for the eventual attack against the government, he was strong and Rex recognized the rage inside him, just bubbling under the surface, waiting for a chance to get revenge for what had been done to them as children.  Rex knew Kopi was angry and that anger would fuel his abilities, and he planned to use that to manipulate him into leaving his home to fight a war that, while noble, would ultimately lead to his destruction or capture.  Kai’s sharp focus returned to his little brother who was looking almost bashful as he waited for Kai’s reply. “You agree with him?”  It wasn’t a genuine question, Kai knew the answer.  Kopi was restless here and it was only a matter of time before that need to move on outweighed his desire to stay near his crippled brother.

A deafening silence was his only answer as Kopi hung his head, staring fiercely at the floorboards without answering him.  Kai closed his eyes for a moment, he was Kopi’s leader and his older brother, they were the only family they had left and he didn’t want to lose him, but holding him here when he so desperately wanted to get away would only push him further away.  If only he could make Kopi see reason, this war wouldn’t solve their problems, and it would only make it worse for Mutants after they failed.  And Kai knew they would fail, there weren’t enough of them in the rebellion and once the war started they would be cut off from all supply lines to the capitols and their industries.  Right now, all he could offer Kopi was the truth and hope that he would heed the logic in it.

“I believe in this cause as much as anyone, Kopi.  I want my freedom so bad I can taste it, but I cannot justify winning it by spilling the blood of others, especially when it is so unlikely that we will win at all.”

Without a word Kopi held up the note for him to take, his face cold and expressionless, revealing nothing.  Kai took the bit of paper from him, slipping it into his pocket to read later.  He turned to leave, barely brushing his broad shoulder against Kai as he passed him.  Before he took off down the path Kai heard him speak.

“Rex, will be here in a week to head for our response in person.” Then Kai watched as his brother stalked off until his back was hidden by the distant buildings.

Kai found Reggie in his library examining a few aged maps from one of the many atlases and Kai returned to cataloguing some of the newer texts that had arrived on one of the recent transport ships.  When he finished he asked Reggie if he could be dismissed for the day, which the doctor cheerily agreed to, only then noticing that Kai was walking unassisted.  His eyes widened so that white could be seen all around the blue orbs and called in his wife who was equally astounded by discovering that Kai could walk unencumbered.  Jean immediately asked to examine him and though he was reluctant he’d grown accustomed to the woman’s intrusions as just a quirk of her personality.  Somehow her probing was less invasive and upsetting than her daughter’s.  There was just something about the way Miranda touched him that stirred more feelings than he cared to experience in one setting.  After Jean’s initial inspection she seemed positively giddy, unable to take her eyes off of his foot.  He had to dismiss himself with apologies three times before either of the doctors even realized he was speaking to them.  He promised to discuss it more with them at a later time, but he expressed that he had other plans for this evening.  The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful.  He returned to Miranda’s classroom to take her to the town square and despite the oddness of the morning, they chatted pleasantly as they strolled to the market.  Once there Miranda tried on a number of dresses at the seamstress’ shop, most of which did not seem to please her for one reason or another.  She eventually settled on a few bolts of fabric and the shop owner eagerly measured her for a few custom made ones.   Their walk back that evening was touched by a bit of excitement when they passed the docks and a strange man approached them, running to greet them in fact.  He was tall, about the same height as Kai, and thin in that sleek and trim way that spoke of a man who wore suits all day.  He wasn’t in a suit at the moment though; he was dressed in jeans and a loose, white muslin shirt with strings of loosely braided hemp around his neck, which he assumed were supposed to be jewelry.  His hair was short, but disheveled and he needed a shave badly.  The man ignored Kai entirely, barely giving him a once over before cheerfully clutching Miranda’s hands in his.  Miranda squeaked at the attack and starred stunned at the man smiling in front of her.  Kai wanted to jump between them and force the overly friendly stranger to let go of her.

“Miranda, darling, it’s me, Max.” His smile deepened as she seemed to begin to make the connection.

“Max?  Oh my God.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and embraced him.  Kai was all but forgotten standing next to them and his heart sank to his gut; she knew the man and was happy to see him.

****

Miranda – Present

Like some sort of sadistically wonderful fairytale there he was; tan and gorgeous as always, but older, a smattering of elegant silver hair decorating his temples.  She should be ecstatic; hadn’t she been thinking of him constantly over the last few weeks, just this morning in fact.   Maxwell Cooper.  She should be happy, and she was, but she was also nervous as hell and confused.  What in the world was he doing in the Pacific?  He was rambling on in front of her as her attention waved in and out.  Something about her father inviting him to teach here and a sabbatical from the university.  Her father had extended a job to him and hadn’t even told her.  Now she was mad, how could he surprise her like this?  Max had been her first and while she still remembered that summer fondly, the aftermath had been heartbreaking and set her up for a string of doomed-to-fail relationships the remainder of her senior year and all through college.  And here he was, standing in front of her after almost ten years, like an answer to her lonely prayers.  What was she thinking, this man had used her, and then barely lifted a finger to call or write after that, too busy with his graduate studies to keep up with the lovesick teenager he had romanced.  He should have been appalling to her, but he wasn’t.  She found herself looking him up and down over and over again, taking in every beautiful inch of him.  A change in his voice caught her off guard.

“My, but haven’t you filled out lovely.”  She watched as he drank in the sight of her, a predatory smile on his lips and her desire suddenly plummeted.  He was still the same lecherous older man she’d fallen for a decade ago.  How could she be so stupid as to think for even a second that his interests were remotely honorable?

“Well, a lot changes in ten years, Max.”  She said with a hint of cutting scorn.

“Yes, I can see that.  You’ve always been very mesmerizing, Miri.”  He glided his fingers against her cheek, his eyes glinting with lust and she did her best to keep from wincing as he used her old nickname.

“You weren’t so bad yourself.” She said coldly as she brushed his hand away.

“I am truly looking forward to spending more time with you while I’m here.  Your father told me you and your sister had come with him to this godforsaken zone to work at his school.  I shiver to think of what might happen to a delicate flower such as yourself in this place, so devoid of civilization.”  There was that look that made her think he’d sooner take a bite out of her neck than kiss her if she wasn’t careful.  God, but he is handsome.  Her pulse quickened just a tad and her face felt hot.  He leaned forward and suddenly his face was just an inch or two from hers.  So close he might kiss her and she pushed her lips forward ever so slightly as they burned for him to kiss her.  Instead of pushing forward however he slid his cheek against hers so that his mouth hovered in front of her ear and whispered softly to her. “Maybe we can pick up where we left off.”  The words were like a direct line to her pelvis and she flushed as the muscles deep in her abdomen clenched involuntarily.

A calloused hand touched her arm and she snapped out of her torrid day dream, turning in the direction of the touch.  It was Kai, she’d totally forgotten he was still there, and he’d seen the whole little peep show that Max was putting on with her.  Her blush deepened and she knew she looked like a sex-crazed idiot standing there with Max against her ear, hot and bothered and her mouth gaping open.   She pushed Max away from her briskly.

“It was really nice seeing you again, Max. Truly.  But I’m afraid I’m on my way somewhere and I need to get going.”  She tried to smile convincingly as she lied.  Grabbing Kai’s elbow she shoved him forward and barreled past her old lover in a hurry to put as much distance between them as possible.  Max didn’t say anything as they left, but she could feel him watching her hurry off.

She scolded herself fervently as they marched well out of sight.  Her thoughts were scattered and her chest ached as her breathing became more and more rapid to keep up with her pace.  She was so  thoughtless; she could feel herself falling for him all over again, and it wasn’t even because she loved him or felt any real emotional connection to the man.  He was so vapid, how could she, but still she was drawn to him.  Out of some horny and desperate need to feel close to someone again her  body was perfectly willing to sacrifice her heart and emotional wellbeing in an effort to see Max again, and soon.

“Miranda!” The shout originated right next to her and she realized she’d been dragging Kai with her this whole time.  She released him quickly and he stared at her with large and stormy eyes.

“I’m so sorry, Kai.  I had to get out of there.”  Now that they had stopped moving she could feel her chest tightening as her breathing recovered.

“It’s fine.  Who was that guy?”  Kai didn’t even seem winded.

“Just an old boyfriend.  I didn’t know he was coming here.”

“I gathered that much.  He seems to still be pretty interested in you.  Are you going to be okay?”  Kai’s face was so soft and concerned she could feel her heart lighten as she watched him.  He really did care for her as a friend.

She coughed a little to clear the swollen feeling in her throat to no avail.  “He is interested, but only in rekindling the physical side of our relationship.”  She scoffed as she said it out loud; it was true, but damn if it didn’t sting a bit. “Why do I always fall for such jerks?”

Kai had a strange expression on his face as though he didn’t know if he was supposed to answer.  She sighed, “I’m sorry again, Kai.  It’s been a tough couple of months, and then the first person I see from my old life shows up and he’s the same overbearing and oversexed ass he was when I was sixteen. And I’m totally falling for all his lines.”  She was so frustrated she barely noticed that she’d said the last so Kai could hear it.

“It’s not my place, Miranda, but I don’t think that man really cares about you.” Kai was so sweet, but she couldn’t help the laugh that burst from her mouth   and she bit her lip trying as she saw his horrified expression.

“You’re telling me.” She spoke sarcastically.

He continued, his gaze downcast, “Wouldn’t you rather have someone who cared about you because you’re a beautiful and intelligent woman rather than some cur who thought nothing more of you than he would any other young and attractive girl?”

“You mean like you?” She batted her lashes at him, getting a little closer to him, but not touching him, since she knew it tended to upset him.  His eyes shot open so wide that she thought they might pop out and he choked on nothing more than air.

“Me?  No, no I just-I mean you’re-but I’m- and,” he stuttered nervously.  She had to admit it was kind of adorable the way he tripped over himself, but it was cruel to tease him when he was just trying to make her feel better.  She put her finger on his lips to still him.

“I’m just kidding, Kai.  I know what you meant.  And yes I would like to find a guy like that, but I always seem to find the ones who have less than noble intentions.  It’s like a curse.”

The color in his face drained a bit, and she lowered her hand and continued. “I’m just feeling lonely right now and seeing Max brought that to the surface.  It’ll pass.”  She started to walk again, heading up the dirt road that lead to the estate.  Kai watched for a moment before following after her.  He walked her to the front door of her house and she waved goodbye to him as she opened the door to go inside.

“Miranda?” Kai called after her. “You’ll find someone; you just have to be patient.” He grinned, a wide and genuine smile and she couldn’t help but smile back before entering the house and closing the door behind her.  It was a nice thought, but the nagging voice in her heard kept telling her it was a naïve one as well.

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Copyright:

All of the writing and artwork on this blog is original and copyrighted by Vee Villarreal. Please feel free to share this blog with others, but do not distribute or publish any portion of this blog without the permission of the author. Thank you!
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