|To Neptune and Back
Author: HoneyBee1 PM
Logan left after Cassidy committed suicide. He is leading a double life for 10 years. He's back now, & discovered that everything has changed. A LoVe story with murders, deadly secrets, betrayals, lives ruined, bloodsheds... A Neo-Noir drama story about the lives of Neptunians. MaDi and series trailer are included!Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Crime - Logan & Veronica - Chapters: 20 - Words: 126,690 - Reviews: 264 - Favs: 57 - Follows: 135 - Updated: 03-01-13 - Published: 02-21-11 - id: 6765096
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: Regarding Veronica's condition, I based this with a real case. True story, I swear, I have a distant relative who has the same illness. Without getting into details, all I can say is that my relative doesn't recognize everybody but still functional. I'm not trying to downgrading mental illness or anything, just in case people would get offended by it. I apologize beforehand, and want to remind people that the whole story of 'To Neptune and Back' is fictional (with sprinklers of truth).
Big thanks to silverlining2k6 who advised me about what kind of medicine Veronica should take. I don't really want to dwell much with the medical thing though. Veronica was depressed after all she had been through, but she'll get over it… And I also want to remind everyone that this story is a LoVe story, about Logan and Veronica. But yes, Gory is being featured prominently because he's Veronica's love interest too. I always wanted to make a noir crime drama, so this is my chance. Thanks to layoung13 for beta'ed my fic. Thanks for everyone's attention, happy reading!
Thalassa Sanatorium, 2013
Veronica was standing in the garden, watching her surroundings. There were times where she realized where she was… like she was in a hospital for special people. She didn't understand why she was here… She watched several patients in their bathrobes sitting around or just walking around drowning with their own thoughts or in their own worlds…
She walked in the garden, enjoying the breeze and the fresh air. She could hear the birds chirping and the trees moving. She felt peaceful.
She heard laughter and turned around, "Val?"
A blonde girl with a pep squad uniform stood near her. She smiled brightly, "No, it's me. How dare you forget about me, Veronica Mars?"
Veronica looked at her, "Lilly… you came." She didn't hug her best friend or run towards her. It was like she knew… that she didn't exist. "You never visit…"
"How could I visit if you forget about me?" Lilly pouted and put her hands on her hips.
"How could I forget about you…?" Veronica whispered.
"Veronica Mars… You need to wake up. Don't be like this anymore."
"Like what?" She whispered. She missed Lilly so much. "Where's Duncan? Where's Logan?" Her eyes were watery as she watched Lilly stand and smile at her. "Where's… Don?"
"He's watching over you." Lilly smiled. "I'm watching over you too."
"I was with… I mean… Don…" She tried to remember. "Don was…" She looked up and Lilly was gone. "Lilly…? Don't leave me…" Veronica closed her eyes trying to remember. Why she was here in this place? Why did everything seem in pastel? Why did everything seem jumbled? Why…
She looked up and saw that tall and handsome orderly she befriended stood near a tree. "Hey…"
"Are you okay?" Mercer looked at his surroundings to see whether there was anyone around. "Were you talking to someone?"
"I think so…" She frowned. "I don't remember."
Mercer nodded in understanding. "Won't you sit with me here?" He sat on the ground and rested his back on the tree. Veronica sat next to him and inhaled the fresh air. "It's good weather, yeah?" He looked at her. The wind blew her hair and she looked like an angel.
"Hmmm…" She enjoyed the sun kissing her skin. "I remember me and my dad had a picnic when I was in kindergarten. In weather like this." She tilted her head and Mercer was mesmerized by it.
"Must be great. To have a dad that cares for you."
Veronica looked at him. "I'm sure your dad cares about you."
"Nah, I'm just his namesake. He only cares about his mo – job." Mercer pursed his lips. "He's a janitor. A very dedicated janitor."
"My dad is also dedicated to his job. He's the sheriff, you know?"
"No, shit. For real?"
Both of them chuckled. Mercer would never guess that he liked the idea of spending some time with a girl and having a conversation. He always thought that girls were dumb and spending an hour with a girl who talked about her boyfriend and unicorns would make him crazy. Veronica made him so comfortable; he wanted her to be with him.
Mercer frowned to see some people were running inside the house. "What's going on?"
Veronica looked at the house and saw several nurses and orderlies run inside. Suddenly she had a bad feeling and stood up quickly. Without waiting for Mercer, she ran back to the house. Mercer looked around worriedly and walked away in another direction. He climbed the fence and walked to the parking lot towards his car.
Veronica walked hurriedly to the house and saw a few patients looking at the hallway curiously. She had a bad feeling about what happened. Her detective instinct started tingling around her body. It was as if she knew something bad had happened but she didn't know what.
She saw people running towards a room. Veronica's eyes widened and she ran towards it. "Val… no." She pushed away some people. Some of the nurses were trying to stop her, but Veronica was able to move fast towards Valentina's room. "Val!? Valentina?!"
Veronica walked into the room and saw Valentina had hanged herself in the closet of her room.
She immediately put her hands on her mouth to cover her scream. Doctor Rosenberg saw her, and ordered the nurses, "Get her out of here!"
"No… Val? Why did you do it?! Val?" The nurses pulled her away from the room.
A flash of memory suddenly appeared in her mind.
Duncan was sitting in the foyer, rocking back and forth. His eyes looked empty.
Veronica blinked to the memory.
Lilly lying dead near the swimming pool with blood on her head.
Veronica let the nurses tuck her in bed after they gave her some medicine. They comforted her and she didn't say anything.
Don was mocking her about her rape.
The nurses turned the lights off and said to sleep tight.
Her mom had gone and left a music box
Veronica was trying to remember hard. She wanted to remember. She had to remember.
She chopped off her hair…Wallace was taped on a flagpole…She put a bong in Logan's locker…Logan broke the headlight of her Le Baron with a crowbar. Weevil punched him…Troy helped her fix her slashed tires…She met a purple haired girl named Mac…Dick mocked her...Beaver looked at her sadly…Madison sneered at her…Meg smiled at her…Weevil flirted with her…Duncan and The Tritons chased her down the hall…Logan cried in her arms…Casey hugged her in front of a bonfire…Duncan danced with Meg…Leo kissed her…She kissed Logan…. Logan kissed her back…Logan and her were kissing when Aaron yelled 'surprise!'…Aaron tried to kill her and her dad…
Veronica opened her eyes and cried, "Daddy… What happened?"
Few Days Later… (2013)
It was in the middle of the night. There had been yellow police tapes on Valentina's door. Veronica stared at it for a while and then walked away. The place was quiet as everyone was asleep. Some of the night shift nurses were at their station, but they missed as a tiny blonde woman walked out to the garden in the middle of the night. She walked to the garden leisurely.
She whistled and waited.
Mercer appeared near the fence. "Hey… I got your message."
"Thanks for seeing me."
"Hey, no problem." Mercer shrugged.
"I just need someone to talk."
Mercer pointed to the house with his chin. "I'm sorry about your friend."
Veronica looked at the house hard. "Yeah…"
"Do… do you know why she…?"
Veronica didn't say anything for a while. When she answered, her voice was steady. "She used to say that she heard voices in her head."
"I'm sorry to hear that." Mercer said. He saw Veronica was shivering and he offered his jacket. "Here, put my jacket on." He wrapped her with his jacket. The jacket was too big for her, and for a second, she smelled a familiar scent. A scent she would rather forget…
"Do you have any cigarettes?" Veronica asked Mercer. He looked at her amusedly.
"I have better." He rolled up a joint and lighted it. After he smoked it, he passed it to her and she stared at it curiously. "If you don't want to, that is fine."
"No, I want to." She smoked it and coughed. "This is some heavy shit." Her voice was strained.
"I would never guess that you could say dirty words." His voice was low. He remembered how he used to fuck her hard and she would scream, and he would tell her to curse. Thinking about it made him hard, but he hid it well.
"I would never guess either." She smoked it again and closed her eyes. She needed this. Something to relax her mind.
"Veronica…?" Mercer said.
"I want to kiss you." He said. Veronica looked up to him. "I've wanted to kiss you for so long." Veronica didn't say anything so Mercer walked closer to her. His breathing was ragged. He closed the distance from her and kissed her slowly. Veronica closed her eyes, letting him kiss her but not kissing him back. Kissing him seemed familiar… and not familiar in a good way… Mercer touched her cheek and looked at her longingly. It was the way he looked at her made her skin crawl. "I'm… sorry. I can't help it."
"I think I should go." She returned the joint and the jacket to him.
Disappointed, Mercer just nodded. Veronica turned around and walked away fast. Something about Mercer made her skin feel like she was covered in dog poop.
Veronica walked around by herself. She was trying to understand why she was in the psychiatric facility. She had flashes of memories but she couldn't comprehend what happened. She began to understand something when she looked in the mirror; she was older than sixteen years old. She cried when she realized that she wasn't a high school student, and she couldn't understand why she aged. She looked around in her room and realized this wasn't her room back home where she put posters of O-Town and pictures of her friends.
She saw other patients walking around with empty looks on their faces. Some of them laughed without reason, or cried without reason.
Veronica stopped in front of Valentina's door. The police had put the yellow tapes away.
She couldn't get the image out of her head…Valentina hanging herself.
Sometimes these voices, Ronica… they tell me to do things…
Veronica remembered her saying that. She closed her eyes sadly. She had lost a friend… and in this place, you needed a friend. Slowly, she opened the door. She didn't expect someone was inside the room so she gasped to see a man sitting on the edge of the bed, looking out the window.
Gorya looked up and saw Veronica, and he abruptly wiped tears from his eyes.
"I'm sorry… I didn't know there was someone here." Veronica started to back away, but he raised his hand to stop her.
"No, don't go. I'm just here… to collect her things." He stood up and pointed to a box on the table. "My uncle…" For a second, anger flashed in his eyes, but it was gone now. "Her dad wants me to take her stuff."
Veronica stood awkwardly and looked at the box on the table. "Can I?" Gorya nodded and put his hands in his pockets, watching her. She peeked inside the box and smiled sadly. "Her Pound Puppy." She took the Pound Puppy stuffed dog. "She was always playing with it."
Gorya chuckled, "Her parents never let her to have a dog. Or any pets. I guess that was the closest one." Veronica held the Pound Puppy and rubbed it on her cheek. "You can have it if you want to."
"No, I can't. Her family probably wants it."
"Somehow I doubt it." He said bitterly. He then looked at her and said softly, "It's yours."
Veronica looked at him gratefully. "Thank you…" She looked at the stuffed animal sadly. "You know, she was my friend in this place…" Her eyes were glimmering. "My only friend…" She looked up at Gorya. "I don't even know why I'm here. But she didn't care. She always tried to cheer me up. We talked a lot. And she told me…" A tear dropped on her cheek. "She told me that sometimes she heard voices in her head. Is that why she hanged herself?"
"I don't know…" Gorya replied quietly.
She wiped a tear from her cheek roughly, "And what's worse..? I feel like I've been through this before. That I lost someone important to me before… But I don't remember about it." Gorya looked away. Veronica noticed that and she asked, "But you knew…" She searched his face, and he had to look at her again. "You said that we were in college together…"
"I was mistaken."
"I looked at myself in the mirror this morning… I don't think I'm a teenager."
"You're a young girl…"
She shut her eyes and her lips quivered. "I wish for once someone would tell me the truth." She sobbed. "Or maybe they did, and I don't remember…" She hugged the stuffed puppy tightly to her chest. "I miss Valentina… I don't have anyone else anymore… I'm all alone."
"You're not alone." He said abruptly. "Look at me. You're not alone." He sounded angry and Veronica stepped back a little, clutching the stuffed puppy. Gorya swallowed and composed himself. "Valentina was like a sister to me. A sister I never had. I was her friend too, basically. She never had any friends before. And you…" He croaked, "You were her friend too. And that's what matters." She only looked at him, not really sure of what he was saying. "I'm here." He looked at her intensely, as if he needed her to be sure that he was here for her.
Veronica smiled sadly. "Thank you… How nice of you."
Gorya looked away. "I'm not a nice person. Everyone says that." He looked at the room. "But Valentina never cared about that." He then looked at her again and held her shoulder. "I'm here for you. If you need anything, you can call me. Anytime." He then grabbed a piece of paper and a pen from the table and wrote his phone number. "If you want to talk or vent, or… anything…" He folded the piece of paper and shoved it in her hand. He stared at her – his eyes were teary. "Just… call me." He then grabbed the box and was going to walk out from the room when he stopped and said, "Someday you will know the truth, Veronica. And when you do, I hope we can still talk." Veronica stared at him and clutched the stuffed puppy to her chest. She nodded and tears were falling down her cheeks. Gorya tightened his jaws, and then he left.
Sorokin Mansion (Uncle Lev's Home), Valentina's Wake, 2013
Gorya watched his uncle Lev from across the room. Lev had his arm around a buxom woman named Mischka. When he saw her, he curled up his lips in disgust. That man… he just got divorced, his own daughter had just died, and he was already sleeping with this piece of plastic. He also watched Dax looking all surly but not really sad because his sister died. He never knew his sister because Valentina spent most of her life in the mental hospital.
He watched Roman talking to several of the members of the family – important people. Zena was drinking a glass of bourbon, alone near the piano. Valentin chewed down some food with his bimbo of the week, a blonde girl named Lizzie or something. Lex Sorokin, their father, was talking with other guests – he saw Gorya standing near the window, watching the world outside. He excused himself and approached his middle son.
"Gorya." Lex stood beside him. He was a tall bearded man with a thick Russian accent. "How are you holding up?"
"I'm fine, papa."
"She's in a better place now, Gorya. You know that." Lex said to his son. Gorya didn't say anything so his father continued. "What happened to Valentina is… sad. But we need to move on. I need you to help Roman with his business…"
"We just buried Valentina and we're already talking about business?" Gorya narrowed his eyes to his father.
His father sighed, "We need to keep up appearances around other Bratvas that we are a strong family. Roman, you, and someday Valentin will inherit the family's business." Gorya pursed his lips but he didn't say anything until his phone rang. Before his father could say anything else, Gorya excused himself. Lex sighed and shook his head.
Gorya walked out from the room full of people and closed the door. He leaned back on the door and exhaled loudly. He was suffocated in there. He looked at the caller ID but he didn't know who the caller was. He answered the ring, "Hello?" At first there was no answer at the end of the line. "Hello? Who's this?"
"H—hi…." A woman's voice replied, and Gorya knew who called.
"I'm sorry… I didn't mean to bother you or anything." She sounded unsure.
"No. I'm glad you called." He couldn't help but smile. "It's just… Well, thank you for calling. What can I help you with?"
"I don't know… I just want to know how was… you know, the funeral?"
"It was… nice, I guess. What can you say about a funeral?" Gorya looked around and saw a chair near the window, so he went there and sat while watching the window.
"I'm sorry for your loss. I know she meant a lot to you." Veronica said. She was calling from a public telephone in the lobby area. Dr. Rosenberg was letting her do normal things most of the time; infact he was encouraging it.
"I know she meant a lot to you too." Gorya said softly. "Thank you for being her friend."
"I just… I thought it's a bad idea to call…"
"Why? I don't mind. I told you to call if you need anything."
"I don't want to bother you." Veronica sighed. "I just… need to talk to someone."
"What about…your father and your family?"
"For some reason, I think they've been avoiding me. I don't know why."
"Whatever it is, Veronica… I think they just want to protect you." Gorya said softly. He couldn't believe that he was this soft towards a woman who wasn't in her right mind. Everyone said that he was ruthless and cold and basically not a nice person. But only to Valentina and Veronica, he could be someone better.
Veronica sighed. "Listen… I don't want to take your time away from your family. Thank you for accepting my call anyway."
"Veronica, you can call me anytime." Gorya said.
"Thank you, Gorya."
"You can call me Gory, if you want to…" He smiled. They exchanged goodbyes and he made her promise to call him again, anytime.
From that moment on, Veronica started to call him whenever she wanted to talk about anything. And Gorya listened, just like Valentina did.
Veronica read a newspaper. On page 6, there was a headline:
"DAUGHTER OF MOBSTER BURIED THREE DAYS AGO. FAMILY IN MOURNING, WANTS TO SUE THE PSYCHIATRIC FACILITY"
Veronica saw a picture of Valentina and read the long article about her family. Her death was an apparent suicide because of her mental illness. The article mentioned Valentina briefly but the long story was about the Russian family, the Sorokins in Neptune. How they were the most powerful and wealthy family of Russian mobsters in the city,
She saw a picture of the family tree. Lex and Lev Sorokin were the Sorokin brothers – and they kept the family business tight. They never referred to themselves as Mafia or an Organized Crime family. They were just a family, and right now they had lost a family member. Valentina was the daughter of Lev Sorokin. His only son was Dax, who went to Neptune High. Lev's brother was the commandant of the family, named Lex. He was the patriarch of the family who had three sons: the terrible trio, the Sorokin Brothers- Roman, Gorya, and Valentin.
Veronica saw a picture of Gorya standing with his family and sighed. The soft spoken man who knew her from college was a mobster. Just great
Veronica was sitting under a tree, reading a Nancy Drew book when a shadow fell upon her. She had goosebumps before she even looked up. Mercer was standing in front of her and staring at her with that weird look. He wasn't wearing his uniform, but a pair of jeans and long sleeved shirt.
"Hello." She greeted him.
Mercer looked at her; he seemed unsettled. "I haven't seen you for a while."
"I'm here." She shrugged. "I'm still stuck in this place."
"I've been looking all around for you."
"Then you know that I'm here all the time." She narrowed her eyes. "Are you still working here?"
"What?" He looked at himself. "I'm on a break." He lied.
"That's weird. I asked the administration, and they said that they never had an orderly named Mercer working here. Maybe you can indulge me with an explanation of HOW is that possible?" Veronica said calmly and she saw Mercer pale a little.
"I can explain." Mercer said quietly as he looked around.
"I'm all ears." She leaned back and rested her body on the tree.
"I don't work here."
"I'm your friend."
"Yes… we knew each other during school. And I was friends with Dick Casablancas."
"I know Dick…"
"We were friends during college." He tried to explain. "I mean, Dick and me. And then you and me… we…dated." He closed his eyes. "I just… want to help you. I mean… we… cared about each other. I guess after we broke up, your dad didn't want me near you." He looked at Veronica and said, "Please don't tell Dick or your dad that I visit you."
Veronica went quiet. Another person who said they knew each other during college. Which one she would believe? The mobster or the fake orderly?
"So all that stuff about your dad being a janitor was a lie?"
"Look… I knew you won't believe me that we were friends… I thought I could help you by just…being together again." He looked at her. She stared at him, trying to read his mind or something.
Something was not right, and her gut was telling her to avoid this person at all costs. But her brain was telling her to dig more. "Okay." She stood up and stared at Mercer for a while. And then she walked back to the house, leaving Mercer flabbergasted.
Veronica didn't answer, but just kept walking. She had a determined look on her face.
She needed to investigate this. She didn't know why. But it seemed it was in her blood. She needed to remember again, and she was determined not to forget.
I'm not crazy, she thought. I won't end up like Valentina.
Veronica started to read newspapers. She realized that it was the year 2013 – ten years in the future from her sophomore year of high school. She realized that she was, what, probably twenty-six years old.
For a teenager, it was like OLD.
Veronica couldn't believe that she forgot a decade of her life. She missed prom night, graduation day… her times with her friends…
Dr. Rosenberg never told her anything. During their sessions, they only talked about the past, her feelings about certain things, and whether she remembered something. But for the past few weeks, he had been asking about Valentina and how Veronica was dealing with her death.
She felt fine.
Valentina's death seemed to awaken something inside her.
Her hunger for truth.
She needed the truth. But could she handle the truth?
Veronica read her case file. She sneaked into Dr. Rosenberg's office and borrowed the file. She copied it during the night. It was funny how she knew how to make and copy a few keys using only a bar of soap and a melted plastic brush. All this knowledge surprised her, but it felt natural. She read Dr. Rosenberg's report and felt really sad.
"Veronica completely shut down for few days after her father brought his wife and sons."
Dad has sons? And the wife wasn't her mother?
Veronica then put the copy of her file in the desk drawer and didn't look at it for several days.
She stopped taking her medication because she found that the pills were making her forgetful instead of remembering things. She had been more focused now when she pretended to take the pills. She would stick her finger down her throat and throw up the medication. Veronica felt it inside her… that she was back in the world again. She accepted the fact that she was not a teen anymore and she was in a mental hospital. Before Valentina's death, she felt like she was in a bubble and in a pastel world where everything was fine. Like she was in vacation in some resort for God knows how long. Her dad visited her several times and she could see how much he strained not to cry. She didn't have the heart to ask what happened to her.
Dick and Cindy were visiting also. Dick was always trying to joke around and Cindy was always trying to cheer her up. For the first time, she realized how much she cared about them. She didn't remember them being her friends, but she knew deep down inside that she really loved them. Veronica told Dick that he looked taller and handsome now. She could see that Dick was trying not to break down, and hugged her. And for the first time, she didn't ask about Lilly, Duncan, and Logan. They weren't visiting, ever. Something must have happened to them. And neither Dick nor her dad wanted to talk about them, worried maybe she would shut down again.
She started to read her file again.
Every page she read made her closer to the truth. On one hand, she felt that this was in her blood – solving cases. She investigated why she was in this facility. It made her blood rush and her energy seemed to burst. On the other hand, she was afraid that she wouldn't like what she finds. What if she found something earth shattering about her life?
"I'm not a teenager." Veronica said.
Dr. Rosenberg looked up from his notes and stared at her momentarily. "Why did you say that?"
"I look at myself in the mirror." She said. "And I read some newspaper in the waiting room. I'm in a psychiatric facility." She was sitting on the couch, not looking at Dr. Rosenberg. She was frowning and staring at her nails. "Dad looks older than I remember. Dick is taller and he has a different hairstyle." She paused and continued, "Duncan, Lilly, mom, and Logan never visit."
"They might be busy…" Dr. Rosenberg replied softly.
"Please don't lie to me, Doctor." Veronica tersely said. "I'd rather learn the truth than hear some lies." She looked up, and Dr. Rosenberg saw fires in her eyes. "Tell me the truth."
Dr. Rosenberg sighed, "We did tell you the truth, Veronica… but you couldn't handle the truth."
"I promise I won't freak out or anything."
"I think you have enough excitement for a day. You found out about your age and your surroundings without having any breakdown whatsoever." He looked at her behind his glasses. "I think it's a progress."
"How long have I been here?"
"What happened to me?"
"It's a subject for another day."
"I want to know now."
"You need to be patient, Veronica."
"I don't want to be in this place anymore."
"Valentina is dead. I have nobody in this place. I have no friends. My friends abandoned me. My family is breaking up, and nobody wants to tell me anything. And when they do, I don't know whether I can trust them."
"Veronica, I know you're upset. This is why I think we need to take it slow. Don't rush this. It's better that you understand what happened to you step by step, instead of just jumping in the water. Learn to walk first before running." Veronica bit her lower lip. She hated this place already. Her sanctuary seemed gone now. The place might not look like a hospital, more like a resort, but it was still a mental hospital. "Listen… how about this? I will give you some items. And maybe you can remember some things from those items. But I need you to promise me." Veronica looked up from her nails. "I need you to promise to take it easy."
Veronica nodded slowly.
Dr. Rosenberg stood up and went to his desk. There was a box on the desk, and he put the box in front of Veronica.
Veronica looked at the box curiously. "What is it?"
"Your father sent this to me. I asked him what kind of personal item you really loved and told him to send it to me." He pulled out a camera. "You were a very talented photographer."
Veronica stared at the camera with wide eyes. Dr. Rosenberg gave the camera to her, and watched as her hands trembled touching the camera. She examined the camera, and she felt a familiarity of touching the camera. How she could see the world from her lenses, capture the moment at the right time, and then immortalize it – frame it forever. She put the camera in front of her and took a peek from the camera lens. She adjusted the focus and snapped a picture of the smiling doctor. When she put down the camera, she sniffled and laughed at the same time.
"It felt good. I don't remember having a camera, but I like it." She choked a sob.
"Remember that feeling, Veronica. Not all memories are bad. You just need to adjust the focus first." Dr. Rosenberg smiled. "Bring the camera with you. Feel the energy that you get whenever you're holding that camera. Capture some images. You might like it, and you will be ready for your next step." Veronica nodded and wiped her tears.
She really liked that camera. It felt natural in her hands.
For a while, Veronica had been taking pictures from her camera. Everyone could see she had a camera hanging on her neck and she always took some pictures. She never developed or downloaded the pictures, but she liked having the feeling of holding something and capturing moments from her everyday life. She took pictures of the doctors, the nurses, the orderlies, the patients, the flowers, the trees, the swimming pool, the house… it gave her new perspectives and new points of view.
She called Gorya and told him about her new hobby, taking pictures. She told him that there was a possibility that she was a photographer before. Gorya listened from his cell phone, listened to her blabbering about her days, how the weather was great and she took a picture of a cloud that looked like Valentina. He liked listening to her voice; very clear and so innocent. Gorya could listen to her talking about flowers and unicorns for hours; he didn't mind. In fact, her call was the only thing he looked forward to.
Veronica took pictures of her dad, and he was happy that she was happy. He almost burst into tears to see her taking pictures again.
One day she was taking a picture of a ladybug when Mercer appeared again near the fence. She snapped a picture of the bug and ignored him. "You've been ignoring me…" Mercer said. "Why?"
"I'm not ignoring you. I've been busy."
"Busy?" He almost spat. "Busy doing what?"
"Taking pictures." She lifted the camera and showed him. "My dad gave it to me."
"That's nice." Mercer murmured.
"It's nice. It's an exercise for my memory." She looked at the camera lovingly. "I think I can remember things better now."
Mercer looked at her. His heart beat so fast, he was sweating. If she remembers things now… She would be gone. She would hate him again. And he would lose her again. He couldn't let it happen.
"Hey… you know I'm trying to help you remember things too…" Mercer said quietly. "I mean… would you even believe me if I told you that we were together back then?"
Veronica looked at him. "I don't know. I don't know what to believe."
"I can prove it." Mercer looked at her. "I can show you that we used to be together. And who knows, maybe your memory will come back." He sighed. "You've been cooped up in this place for so long. Don't you wanna get out from here? Explore the world and discover yourself again?"
Veronica faced him carefully and watched the man in front of him. Should she trust him? "Where are you going to take me?"
"I have a cabin. I can show you."