Disclaimer: See Chapter 1
Author's Note: Once again thank you for the nice reviews to JLC, Mercedes Aria, Nans, Mono20, Sirus183, Topanga, imag1ne, Aleff and all the shy readers who don't like to write reviews. I was tempted to divide this chapter in two parts, but you all been so patient waiting that I didn't have the heart to make you wait more time for the conclusion. I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I did writing it and thank you again for your kind words. To all, Seasons greetings and a safe and Happy New Year. Mercy
"Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for." Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961)
Three weeks later.
Once again sleep had evaded her and forced her to rise before daybreak. Sitting on her living room couch, wrapped in a blanket, Parker sipped at her hot coffee while she watched another sunrise. It was becoming an exhausting routine. The nightmares would haunt her most of the night until she would wake-up screaming and by the time she managed to calm down, sleep was no longer attainable.
On several occasions Parker considered talking to Sydney about her nightmares and insomnia but refused to give her aging friend another worry. Sydney had quickly recovered from his physical injuries but emotionally he was still a wreck. During the first week of Jarod's disappearance, Sydney would call her every day hoping that the pretender had made one of his mid-night calls to his childhood friend, but slowly Sydney's calls and hope started to diminish. Now three weeks had passed and still no sign of the wayward pretender.
Against Parker's advice, Sydney had stayed alone in his cabin at White Clouds even after Sam had removed all the bugs Lyle had secretly planted in his home. Parker also had tried to persuade Sydney to take a vacation and go visit Michelle and Nicolas for a while, but her stubborn old friend held on to the hope that his protégé would call for advice or return seeking refuge.
Exhausted, Parker closed her eyes and allowed the sun's warmth to caress her face as the rays of light began to break through her living room window. When she opened her eyes again they wondered aimlessly around the empty room until they finally focused on the newspaper lying on her coffee table. Once again a picture of the demolished Centre occupied the front page of the local paper. Staring at the photo with a sick feeling, Parker began to recall all the events of the last three weeks.
Now all that remained of the Centre was scorched ruins. After the explosion and fire, the whole area had been condemned and the authorities had taken possession of the few records that were salvaged from the depth of that hell. Parker was still amazed at the fact that the authorities had not come looking for them after the dust had settled, but it appeared that someone had diverted the investigations away from her team. Instead the authorities were focusing all their attention on the Centre's alliance and dealing with the other organizations in Africa, Europe and Asia that had suffered similar attacks. The idea that Jarod had probably once again tried to protect them, after all they had put him through, was something very unsettling to her. Parker remembered her shock and feeling of relief when she learned about the collapse of the Triumvirate. It appeared that Alex's vendetta had been strategically planned. The psychotic genius had initiated his attacks against the Triumvirate in Africa a week earlier. Mysteriously, all the top-ranking officials had been killed in bizarre accidents and the corporation's very sensitive records had found their way into the local authorities' hands. After crippling the powerful empire at the top he had left the Centre vulnerable and alone to face his attack.
Even though, her entire team had survived this ordeal and they were finally free of the Centre's shackles, something still lingered at the back of her mind. Parker had not found all the answers she desperately needed and she felt that Jarod was a piece of that puzzle.
A few days after the events, Parker had found a box filled with files and DSA's on her front porch. To her shock, most of the records pertained to the Pretender project and to the other children her mother had tried to rescue, including herself. Parker looked at the files trancelike as her fingers touched each of the names on the old and yellowish files. It was like opening a time capsule and looking back into the past. A dark and painful past that had been hidden and twisted with lies and now she would rather see it buried forever. On more than one occasion, she had tried to read the files to find all her answers, but every time something stopped her. During the years of his pursuit, Jarod had always shared with her all the secrets he discovered along the way. Now, it was her obligation to share these old records and new discoveries with him. Yes, but first she had to find Jarod, like she had promised Sydney.
The last person to see Jarod alive was Sam. After leaving Sydney's cabin that day, the sweeper had found himself at the mercy of a very hostile pretender. Jarod had held Sam at gun point and demanded to be taken to a bus station in Dover. Once there, Jarod simply stepped out of the vehicle and expertly vanished among the crowd before Sam had a chance to stop him.
Parker shivered as she remembered her conversation with Sydney. In all the years that she known the old psychiatrist she never seen him so distraught, but after hearing what Alex had told Jarod about his family and origin, she understood the old man's anguish and concern for Jarod. Through the whole revelation, she had done her best to hide her feelings behind her mask, but deep inside she was just as scared as Sydney. Hundreds of questions and scenarios had passed through her mind since that day, but the question that frightened her most was, "What if Jarod finally decided to Vanish?"
In order to cope with the stress and fear, Parker dove into the role of older sister caring for her half brother, Ethan. Following Sydney's advice, Parker hired an excellent Psychiatrist to help her brother deal with the torturing images and nightmares that still haunted him as a result of Raines' experiments and Alex's brainwashing. Ethan was slowly showing improvement, but many years of therapy would be needed to give her brother a chance at a normal life.
Through this whole nightmare, another person who had been extremely supportive was her mother's dear friend, Ben Miller. This wonderful man provided a refuge for her brother and friends until the storm had passed and when Ben learned that Ethan was Catherine's son, he immediately took the role of foster parent for Ethan. As the days passed, Parker could see how their friendship quickly became a therapeutic agent for the troubled young man, bringing her some peace of mind.
Slowly her colleagues were adjusting to their newly found freedom, but some of these changes bothered Miss Parker more than she wanted to admit. Sam, Broots and Debbie were ecstatic making plans about their move to California to start their new life there. Even though, Parker was happy for them, the idea of missing her friends was more painful than she ever imagine, but for now her faithful friends had promised to stay by her side at least until they could locate the missing pretender and Angelo, who had mysteriously vanished a few days after the collapse of the Centre.
A knock at the front door snapped Parker back to reality. Lost in her thoughts she had completely lost track of time. Rapidly, she pushed the blanket aside and rose from the couch. On the way to the door, she tied her robe belt around her thin waist and ran her hand through her hair to make herself somewhat presentable. When she answered the door she was greeted by a young man dressed in a Fed Ex uniform. He smiled broadly and handed Miss Parker a beautiful orchid plant in an elegant Italian ceramic planter.
"What's this?" Parker asked her face turning serious.
"Special delivery for you Ma'am!" The young man said amiably.
"Who the hell sent me THIS?" Parker voiced her thoughts unintentionally.
"Can you please sign here?" The young man asked timidly, handling Miss Parker the delivery form. He no longer had a smile on his face but a confused look. He had never received such a reaction from a flower delivery.
Parker placed the potted flower on the desk by the door and quickly scribbled her signature on the form then roughly handed it back to the young man. "Here."
After closing the door, Parker stood by the desk and stared at her gift. The orchids were beautiful. Each delicate flower had a bright pink color with little specks of a deeper shade of red marking each petal. The container was equally magnificent in every detail. It had a hand painted picture of a bird of paradise in vivid shades of blue, green and red making it almost lifelike.
Almost afraid to harm the delicate plant, Parker cautiously took the tag that dangled from one of the stems and read it out loud, "Butterfly orchid."
She never had much interest in flowers of any kind but from this moment on she knew that orchids would become one of her favorites.
While turning the planter around to admire the beautiful painting, Parker noticed a small envelope taped at the back of the container. When she recognized Jarod's neat penmanship she gasped. With shaky hands Parker quickly opened the small envelop, retrieved the letter and began reading.
Dear Miss Parker,
I'm glad that you're safe and thank you for saving Ethan's life. I knew that I could trust you.
First, I'm sorry for stealing your car, but I had no other choice at that moment and Sydney's life was on the line.
Miss Parker, please take good care of Ethan, Angelo and Sydney and let them take care of you. They are your family.
Now that the Centre is gone and you're free, I hope that you will find all the answers you seek, but try to put the pain away and allow the love you have rejected for so long back into your life. Never forget that your freedom and happiness was the main objective in your mother's plan.
Miss Parker, I will always treasure the friendship we once shared and I will never forget you. I hope that someday you'll find someone who will see the real you and love you with all their heart and soul. Please remember this and promise me that you will be happy.
I hope you like the orchids, they reminded me of you.
Parker dropped heavily on the small chair by the desk before her legs gave out. In disbelief and with tears running down her face, Parker looked back at her gift and then at the letter in her hands. Sydney's fears had come true, Jarod was saying good-bye.
"Jarod, why are you doing this?" Parker whispered sadly. "The game is over. You don't have to run anymore."
Suddenly, the phone on her desk rang loudly startling her. For a few seconds Parker stared at the annoying device with uncertainty. Then she realized that the caller could be Jarod. He always called after sending her a gift. Filled with anticipation Parker picked up the phone and summoned desperately.
"Sorry Sis. I'm not the Lab Rat."
"LYLE, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT?" Parker spat back angrily.
"Is that anyway to talk to your only living relative?" Lyle mocked.
"WELL, IF YOU WANT TO REMAIN ALIVE, YOU BETTER STAY AWAY FROM ME."
The line was silent for a moment, but Parker could hear Lyle's stifled laugh. "Oh come on Parker. You know that you could never kill me...You're too much like Mom."
"LEAVE MY MOTHER OUT OF THIS." Parker growled.
"Okay Sis...Anyway, I didn't call to discuss your feelings for me or for our Mother."
"WHAT DO YOU WANT LYLE?"
"If you ever find Jarod, tell him that the hunt is not over." Lyle said in a threatening tone.
"News flash Lyle, the Centre and the Triumvirate are GONE." Parker remarked triumphantly.
"But I'm not, so tell the LAB RAT to watch his back."
"Lyle, I think you should take that advice yourself." Parker said with a smile.
"WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?" Lyle asked fuming.
"It seems that your star pupil, Alex, informed the local authorities and the Yakuza about all your extra-curricular activities and they are very interested in having a little chat with you."
"THAT BASTARD!" Lyle cursed.
"So, if I were you Lyle, I would consider finding a rock and hiding under it for a very long time." Parker replied coldly.
"Remember Parker, I'm very good at disappearing, but it doesn't mean that I'm gone for good." With that final warning Lyle cut the line.
Parker slammed the receiver back on its cradle and leaned heavily on the small desk. Closing her eyes she ran both hands through her hair tiredly. Hearing from her evil twin was the last thing she expected and as always his hideous nature drained her emotionally. When she re-opened her eyes, the orchids in front of her caught her attention once again. They were like a beacon sending her a message, a cry for help and this time she was not going to ignore it. She was going to find Jarod and stop him from vanishing, but first she had to call Broots and Sydney and warn them about Lyle's resurfacing.
Unintentionally, Lyle's call had served as a wake-up call and an inspiration for Parker. She finally realized the important role her childhood friend played in their lives and this gave her more determination to find Jarod.
First, she would call Broots so he could warn the others and put Sam on alert. Lyle was an unpredictable creature and, like a wild animal, if cornered would be capable of anything. At the same time, she could ask Broots to keep track of the authorities' search for Lyle.
Without further delay, Parker dialed Broots' cell number. After a couple of rings, the techie answered.
"Broots, listen carefully." Parker began.
"Miss Parker? Is something wrong?"
"Broots, Lyle just called me..."
"L...LYLE?" Broots interrupted with alarm. "WH...WHERE IS HE?"
"BROOTS, SHUT-UP AND LISTEN!...Call Sam and tell him to stay with you and Debbie until we know what Lyle is up to."
"Miss Parker, what about Ben and Ethan?"
"Don't worry, Lyle doesn't know about Ben, but please give them a call and warn them to be on the safe side."
"Okay Miss Parker...Miss Parker...What did Lyle want?" Broots asked nervously.
"He's looking for Jarod." Parker said simply.
"OH MAN, THAT'S NOT GOOD...WHAT IF HE FINDS HIM?" Broots asked, his voice filled with concern.
"Then we better find Jarod first." Parker replied firmly.
"Miss Parker, have you called Sydney?"
"No, I'm going to call him after I'm done with you. Broots, try to get into the local authorities data base and keep track of their investigations regarding Lyle."
"Okay Miss Parker."
"Broots, STAY ALERT and I'll call you back in a few hours for a report." Leaving no room for anymore questions from her nervous friend, Parker disconnected the call.
Not wanting to waste any time on the phone, Parker jumped to her feet and ran to her room to change. In a matter of minutes she was out the door and on the road headed for Sydney's cabin.
Nervously, Parker looked at her watch. It was 8:30a.m. With any luck she would reach Sydney's cabin by 10:00a.m. Pulling her cell phone from her coat pocket, she hesitated for a moment and then pressed the pre-programmed number to Sydney's cell phone. Knowing her old friend, he was probably up at the crack of dawn.
The phone rang a couple of times and then the accented voice answered.
"This is Sydney."
"Sydney, it's me."
"PARKER! What a surprise!"
"Syd, I need to talk to you. I'm driving up to the cabin as we speak." Parker said seriously.
"YOU'RE COMING HERE NOW?" Sydney asked alarmed.
"Syd, are you alright?" Parker asked confused.
"Yes...Yes, of course...I was just surprised." Sydney assured his friend. "I didn't expect a visit from you this early on a Saturday morning."
"Lyle called me." Parker said suddenly.
"LYLE! What did he want?" Sydney's voice turned serious.
"He gave me a message for Jarod" Parker paused almost afraid to continue. "He said that the hunt was not over."
"Parker, do you think he knows where Jarod is?" Sydney asked, his voice laced with concern.
"I hope not." Parker said almost inaudibly then continued. "At the moment Lyle has a bigger problem. The authorities and the Yakuza are looking for him."
"For Jarod's sake I hope they find him first." Sydney commented dryly.
"Syd, I'll be there around ten." Saying that, Parker disconnected the call
Parker closed the phone and stared at the small device in her hand for a few seconds. Sydney sounded different. She didn't hear the tired defeated tone her old friend had a few weeks ago. Maybe he had finally accepted the fact that Jarod was gone.
The little sports car slowly came to a stop at the end of the dirt driveway. Parker stepped out of her car and stood quietly next to the car listening to all the sounds around her and taking in the beautiful scene. She leaned her head back, closed her eyes and enjoyed the cool air tickling her face. Slowly she took a deep breath and filled her lungs with the fresh mountain air. It was so peaceful that for an instant Parker forgot about all the life-changing events that had taken place in the last three weeks. Now she understood why Sydney had chosen to stay up here all alone to rest and heal. This place was like his natural medicine and his Refuge.
"Parker! So nice to see you again!" Sydney's accented voice broke the peaceful silence.
Parker turned toward the voice and smiled at her old friend standing by the door. "Hi Syd, how are you?"
"Much better thank you." Sydney answered. "Please come in Parker, it's still a little chilly out here."
"Now I know why you hid up here Syd." Parker said walking up the steps. "I forgot how beautiful this place was."
Sydney smiled and greeted his friend with a warm hug. Since their brush with death and the destruction of the Centre, their relationship had become stronger. Sydney was no longer just a colleague, he had become more of a father figure and he embraced that new title with open arms. Since Parker was a little girl, Sydney had treated her like a daughter giving her guidance, love and protection, like he had promised Catherine. Now after so many years that affection was finally accepted and returned and nothing could make him happier.
When they broke the embrace, Sydney guided his young friend into the warm cabin. Once inside, Parker removed her coat and threw it on the back of the couch. Without saying a word, Parker walked to the window and stood there silently.
Sensing her distress, Sydney walked up to tall woman and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Parker, what's wrong?"
Still staring into the distance, Parker began. "Sydney...I think Jarod is gone forever."
"Parker, why would you think that?"
Parker hesitated for a moment then said faintly, "He sent me a gift with a letter...saying goodbye."
"A gift?" Sydney asked intrigued.
"It was a Butterfly orchid." Parker said almost inaudibly.
After a moment of silence Parker asked timidly, "Syd, do you think he will vanish for good this time?"
When Sydney did not reply, Parker turned towards her old friend and frowned. Sydney was just standing next to her with a silly grin on his face.
"And what's so funny FREUD?" Parker asked somewhat irritated.
"Parker, do you know the meaning of that flower?" Sydney asked cautiously.
"Sure Syd, let me just get my Botany degree from the car." Parker spat back sarcastically.
Sydney ignored his friend's sarcastic remark and continued. "The meaning of the Butterfly orchid is that you're always on someone's mind."
Parker's eyes open wide with surprise and for a split second, Sydney saw a ghost of a smile on Parker's lips, but she immediately hid the emotion behind her protective mask.
"Here you go again, putting some deep psychological meaning to everything your Lab..." Parker stopped herself when she noticed the hurt look in Sydney's eyes. "I mean Jarod does."
"No Parker, I knew the meaning of that flower because I love orchids, but you don't need me to tell you what Jarod meant with that gift." Sydney said with sadness.
"Sydney, please don't start with that again." Parker began angrily, but her feelings betrayed her, leaving her with no strength to hide her pain. "If Jarod has made that choice, we should move on with our lives." Parker finished sadly
"You're mad at him because he was going to leave without saying goodbye? Sydney asked observing his friend closely.
"He doesn't owe me anything." Parker replied with hurt in her voice.
"Yes he does." Sydney gazed at her and smile. "And he still cares for you, maybe too much."
"SYDNEY, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING..." Before Parker was able to finish her question the front door flew open and Angelo ran into the room. Angelo looked at the tall woman with surprise, smiled and ran up the stairs.
Parker stared at the empath with wide-eye shock and then chased after him, "ANGELO WAIT!"
In a matter of seconds Parker reached the guest room Angelo had entered at the end of the hall. She pushed the door open and froze staring at all the familiar items in the room. No one had to tell her who was occupying the room. In a daze, Parker walked across the room and stopped, her eyes fixed on all the items that lay scattered on top of a small desk. A feeling of deja vu invading her thoughts. When a noise caught her attention, she looked to the corner where Angelo was busy searching for something inside an old duffle bag. The empath was so focused on his task that he didn't even acknowledge the woman in the room. When the little man found what he was looking for, he turned around, smiled at Parker again and rushed out of the room with a pair of sunglasses in his hand.
"Parker let me explain." Sydney's voice came from the doorway.
"How long has HE been here?" Parker asked dryly.
"Two weeks." Sydney said warily.
"TWO WEEKS?" Parker shouted angrily. "SYDNEY, WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL US?"
"I'm sorry Parker but Jarod asked me not to tell anybody." Sydney replied quietly. "And I gave him my word."
"And you lied to me." Parker said in a hurtful tone.
"Parker, I had no choice. Sydney said ruefully. "Jarod was..."
"JAROD, JAROD! IS ALWAYS ABOUT JAROD!" Parker exclaimed bitterly.
"Parker, you and Jarod are very important to me." Sydney said earnestly. "And I don't want to lose either one of you."
"Well Sydney, with JAROD here your worries are over and you don't need ME anymore." Parker said coldly and walked out of the room past Sydney.
Sydney followed the tall woman back to the family room, but when Parker began to put on her coat and moved towards the front door Sydney panicked and blocked her path.
"PARKER, PLEASE DON'T LEAVE!" Sydney begged. "YOU HAVE TO TALK TO JAROD!"
"NOW YOU WANT ME TO TALK TO HIM!" Parker said fuming. "HE WAS HERE ALL THIS TIME AND YOU LIED TO ME SYDNEY! YOU KNEW WE WERE LOOKING FOR HIM!"
Without warning, Sydney grabbed the tall woman by the arms and looked into her pain-filled eyes. Her impregnable mask was back in place, but in her eyes Sydney still could see the lost little girl desperately seeking for the truth and love.
"Parker, please listen to me." Sydney said with sadness in his voice.
Parker gazed at him sharply. "Okay Syd, I'm listening."
"Please sit down." Sydney released her and pointed towards the couch.
"Again, I'm sorry for not telling you that Jarod was here." Sydney paused to collect his thoughts. "Parker, when Angelo brought Jarod here, he was in very bad shape. He had not sought medical attention for his injuries. I think he just took out the bullet and bandaged the wound. Jarod was completely unresponsive. He would not eat or sleep and he refused my help. He shut me out completely." Sydney stopped, the emotions choking him, then he continued almost inaudibly, "There were days when I thought he was not going to make it."
"Why didn't you call us?" Parker asked softly.
"Parker, I wanted to call you, believe me, but I was afraid that Jarod would find out and leave in his condition. Parker, he doesn't trust me anymore." Sydney said his voice laced with emotion. "Now, I'm afraid it might be too late. Jarod has made up his mind to leave. That's why you must talk to him, PLEASE!"
Parker just sat on the couch in silence, her mind going over everything Sydney said and trying to imagine what was going on inside Jarod's mind. "Why was he acting like that? Rejecting the person who raised him, protected him and loved him like a son."
"He also knows that he needs some physical therapy for his arm if he wants to regain full use of it again, BUT HE JUST WON'T LISTEN TO ME." Sydney said frustrated his eyes begging at the silent woman sitting on the couch.
Without saying a word, Parker stood from the couch and walked to the rustic fireplace. She needed time to think and come to a decision after hearing Sydney's confession and concerns. Parker's mind was racing, going over all the events that has occurred in the last few weeks and the new revelations that had come to light, but time was not on their side and she had to make a decision and soon. Suddenly, Parker noticed how the sun light illuminated a small picture that was placed on the lamp table by the window. Parker walked over to the table and picked up the photo. It was an old black & white photo of Jarod and her when they were children. She was surprised to see that photo since she never knew of its existence. Parker smiled and placed the photo back in its place, making a mental note to ask Sydney about the photo later. Nervously, she ran her hand through her tangled hair before turning to face her old friend.
"Sydney, when did you discover the truth about Jarod's parentage?" Parker asked suddenly.
Slowly, Sydney lowered himself into the lounge chair and sighed heavily. With his eyes lowered he began, "I found out the truth a long time ago when Jarod was just a child, but when I confronted Mr. Parker, he threatened to take Jarod away if I ever told him. Parker, I could not allow that to happen. Raines would have destroyed Jarod. Besides, I had promised your mother that I would protect you, Angelo and Jarod."
"What was Jarod's reaction when he learned that you had lied to him?
"At first he was very angry, but I know he is hurting and feels betrayed." Sydney said with sadness in his voice. "Parker, I have never seen him this broken. I'm really worried about his state of mind."
"Don't worry Syd, Jarod is a survivor. He will pull himself out of this hole." Parker replied calmly trying to hide her concern.
"Parker, he gave me back the DSA's." Sydney said desperately. "And when I asked him about his family, he said he had no more reason to keep searching. Parker, he has given up and if he continues to withdraw, he will lose touch with reality and then...we will lose him forever."
"SYDNEY, WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO? I'M NOT THE SHRINK." Parker snapped back exasperatedly.
Sydney stood and walked over to where Parker was standing. He gently grasped both her hands and looked into her eyes intensely. He hesitated for a moment and then started, his voice trembling with emotion and concern. "Parker, many things have happened since you and Jarod met at the Centre so many years ago, but I believe that your friendship still exists because of the special connection you both have...Parker don't let that friendship die, especially now that Jarod needs you."
"Sydney, I can't..." Parker tried to speak, but Sydney interrupted.
"Parker, you both have lost so much in your life, don't lose each other as well.The Centre is gone now and you both deserve to be happy. Please help him. Remember, that is what your mother wanted for both of you."
Parker's icy glare clashed with Sydney's warm and caring gaze, but she was speechless. Unwittingly, Sydney had just repeated Jarod's message, to bury the pain and find happiness. At the same time, Parker was shocked at Sydney's audacity, but she was not angry at him, because she could feel his love and concern. Something her real father never gave her.
Parker looked away trying to hide her true feelings like she had done most of her life, but deep in her heart she knew that only two people in this world could see through that mask and see her pain. This kind old man in front of her and her childhood friend. Suddenly, flashbacks from dark moments in her life invaded her thoughts and the person who was always there helping her deal with the pain was Jarod. Sydney was right. Now it was her turn to help him and put an end to their pain and loneliness.
When Parker looked at her old friend again, she noticed the look of anguish in his face and how visibly pale he had become.
"Syd, are you alright?" Parker asked truly alarmed.
"I'm fine Parker, just haven't slept much lately." Sydney said closing his eyes and rubbing the bridge of his nose tiredly.
"OH THAT'S SMART FREUD!" Parker said in a scolding tone with her hands on her hips. "DO YOU WANT TO HAVE A RELAPSE AND END UP IN THE HOSPITAL?"
"Parker, don't worry." Sydney tried to reassure her. "I'll be fine, but please talk to Jarod. Please don't let him disappear."
"Okay Syd, I'll talk to Jarod." Parker said softly.
"Thank you Parker." Sydney sigh relieved.
"Or maybe I will just knock some sense into his thick scull." Parker mumbled.
"PARKER" Sydney reprimanded.
"Okay, okay Syd." Parker said raising her hand. "I'll try not to leave any permanent marks."
"PARKER, PLEASE." Sydney said frustrated.
"Alright Syd, here take my gun, so I won't be tempted."
"Parker, the Centre is GONE. Why are you still carrying your gun? Sydney gave her a stern look, his voiced thick with disappointment.
"Old habits die hard Syd and with Lyle lurking in the shadows, I'd rather be safe than sorry." Parker said dryly.
Sydney just shook his head. He always hated the idea of Parker carrying a gun, but with that psycho on the loose, he understood her reason.
"Syd, where is Jarod?" Parker asked coldly.
"I don't know Parker. When I got up this morning, he was gone already." Sydney said, his voice filled with concern. "Sometimes he disappears for hours."
When Parker turned towards the front door, Sydney grabbed her arm frightened. "Parker, what are you going to do?"
"Don't worry Syd; I'm going to give Jarod another reason to keep fighting and searching."
Sydney gave the tall woman a confused look.
Parker reached into her coat pocket and retrieved a small photo. She looked at the photo for a moment and then handed it to Sydney.
"OH MY GOD!...PARKER, WHERE DID YOU GET THIS PHOTO? Sydney asked, his voice shaking. "THE RESEMBLANCE IS UNMISTAKABLE, BUT PARKER ISN'T HE THE...?"
Ignoring the old man's frantic questions Parker explained, "Sydney, remember when we found all those files down on SL-27? Well, a few days after the Centre was destroyed, I found a box at my doorstep with all those files. It contained the Pretender project files, hundreds of other files, DSA's and...His records." Parker explained trancelike.
"Parker, why didn't you tell me about this?" Sydney asked, now calmer.
"Sydney, every time I tried to call you and tell you about the files something stopped me. I had to find Jarod first." Parker said faintly. "Then I got that letter from Jarod and that's why I'm here."
"Jarod needs to see this." Sydney said with concern in his voice.
"Yes, and I hope he doesn't become completely unglued when he learns about this." Parker took the photo from Sydney's hand and opened the front door. "Wish me luck."
When Parker stepped outside, the sudden brightness made her squint momentarily. It was a gorgeous day. The sun was shining and signs of spring were present everywhere. Already feeling too warm, Parker removed her heavy coat and placed it on the porches wooden railing. Carefully she placed the small photo inside her pant's pocket and began her descent from the porch. Once on the driveway, Parker looked around to familiarize herself with her surroundings and then she headed towards the trail that led into the woods. She had no idea where she was going, but something drew her in that direction.
The walk through the woods was amazing. Sounds of life were present all around her and yet this made it peaceful and soothing. Ferns and wild flowers covered the forest floor like a multicolored carpet and beams of sunlight pierced through the heavy foliage above bathing the forest with its glowing warmth. Astonished by all the beauty around her, Parker didn't even notice when the lake came into view in the distance. At the sound of water splashing, Parker raised her eyes and saw the lake just beyond the woods.
Hurrying her pace, Parker exited the woods and found herself standing in a clearing facing a huge crystalline lake. Immediately she scanned the surrounding area looking for the pretender, but he was nowhere in sight. Slowly Parker walked across the pebbled covered shore, her feet sinking into the tiny colorful pebbles.For once she was glad she was wearing boots instead of her expensive stilettos. When she reached the waters edge, she stood there once again mesmerized by the picture perfect scenery. The lake was elongated and in some areas the thick forest collided with its waters. The soft murmur of its tranquil waves had like a hypnotic effect and its crystal clear waters reflected the clouds and the surrounding woods like a giant mirror. It was truly breathtaking.
Captured by all the beauty around her, Parker began her stroll along the water's edge. As she came around a bend on its bank, Parker immediately noticed a small pier in the distance and a tall figure standing at the end. Suddenly, a ruffling sound coming from the woods drew her attention and put her on guard, but when she saw the origin of the noise she could not hide her smile. Angelo was running around the nearby woods collecting wild flowers then he suddenly stopped his task and sprang towards the pier where Jarod was standing. Still undetected by the two runaways, Parker slowly began her walk towards the pier. When she reached the pier platform, she stopped on her tracks and looked back towards the forest and then at the two men standing at the end of the pier. A scary thought entering her mind and sending a shiver down her spine. "How could Jarod and Angelo be so unaware of her approach? What if it was Lyle here instead of her? Sydney was right, Jarod was letting his guard down, like he didn't care anymore, and that could be a fatal mistake, especially after hearing Lyle's threat."
Parker shook her head to remove those terrifying thoughts from her mind and prayed that her evil twin had taken her advice and hightailed out of town. Now her mission was to confront Jarod and pull him out of the abyss he had plunged into.
From her position Parker could see that the pretender was totally absorbed explaining something to Angelo, who was standing next to him listening attentively. From time to time, Angelo would bend down and pick-up something from the ground and handed it to Jarod. Even though they had their back to her, Parker immediately noticed that Jarod had his injured arm in a sling and she remembered Sydney's concerned words.
Gingerly, Parker moved a little closer and then stopped to watch and listen to their exchange.
"Angelo, this is a Eastern Red Columbine" Jarod's said softly as if talking to a small child. "And they grow in all regions of North America."
Afterwards, Jarod would give the flower back to Angelo, who would throw it in the lake laughing. Then Angelo picked up another flower from the collection at his feet and said, "Name?"
"Black-Eyed Susan" Jarod said instantly. "This flower is native from the plains to the Atlantic..."
"Funny" Angelo interrupted laughing.
"Yes Angelo, it has a funny name."
"Go find more." Angelo shouted happily and left Jarod's side. As he passed the tall woman, Angelo stopped, smiled at her and then ran back into the woods to gather more flowers.
Parker's emotionless mask was back in place but her stomach was all wound-up into knots. While she slowly approached the pretender, she took notice of his appearance. Jarod was wearing his usual black jeans and a dark blue sweatshirt. His hair was still long, like the last time she had seen him, and he looked like he had not shaved in days, but what disturbed Parker the most was his gaunt look.
Jarod was deep in thought staring at the lake and to her surprise he was still completely unaware of her presence.
"I hope you're not planning to jump, because I'm not going in that cold water to save your sorry ass." Parker said smoothly.
Jarod's body tensed at the sound of her voice and even though he had not turned to face his huntress, Parker could see that his eyes were scanning the shore for more uninvited visitors plus she could sense his fear.
"I'm here alone." Parker added, immediately noticing his apprehension.
After a few seconds, he sighed tiredly and closed his eyes, wishing that she would walk away and leave him alone, but knowing her persistent nature it was not going to happen.
"Jarod, what are you doing?" Parker asked annoyed, trying to get a response.
"Three weeks ago I was by the water's edge asking myself the same question." Jarod said mournfully.
"And what was the answer? Parker asked timidly.
Finally, when his dark chocolate eyes met her icy blue stare, Parker gasped. Jarod looked very fragile.His bearded face had a set hollow look and she had never seen so much anguish and emptiness in his eyes. Parker could almost sense his pain. Her chest tightening as the realization set in and she understood Sydney's panic. Jarod was in a path of self-destruction and they were the only two people who could stop him.
"Is time for me to move on." Jarod replied sadly averting his eyes to the pier. When Jarod began to walk away, Parker blocked his path.
"WE ARE NOT DONE TALKING." Parker snapped at him irritably.
Sighing heavily, Jarod asked, "What do you want Miss Parker?"
"Sydney is worried about you." Parker began softly. "And seeing you like this is killing him."
"I don't see the reason why." Jarod said dryly.
"JAROD, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?" Parker asked, her eyes staring at him incredulously. "ARE YOU BLIND, STUPID OR BOTH?"
"No Miss Parker, I'm not blind nor stupid. Finally, I learned the TRUTH." Jarod laughed sadly. "All these years you were right Miss Parker, I'm nothing more than a science experiment. Sydney's Science Project; A Lab Rat.
"DAMN IT JAROD! STOP THAT! MY BLOOD WAS ALSO TESTED AND I WAS MONITORED AS WELL. LOOK WHAT THEY DID TO ME. THEY KILLED MY MOTHER, MY FATHER, WELL THE MAN I THOUGHT WAS MY FATHER, ONLY TOLD ME LIES AND THEY TURNED ME INTO A COLD-HEARTED BITCH!" Parker shouted enraged as she pace back and forth in front of the stunned pretender. "NOW WE ARE FINALLY FREE AND WE CAN CHANGE ALL THAT. WE DESERVE BETTER JAROD. NOW WE CAN FIND OUR OWN TRUTH AND HAPPINESS."
Jarod flinched at her unexpected outburst, but he chose to remain quiet and very still, hoping that she was not carrying her gun. His instinct for self-preservation reawakened, but something was different about his huntress. Even though she was screaming at him, her face showed genuine concern and not anger. Also, he noticed that she was dressed more casual in jeans and a sweater and not in her sophisticated business-like attire and three inch heals which always made her look so threatening.
After a long pause, Parker began again, but in a calmer voice, "Jarod, that's what you told me in your letter...To leave the pain behind and find happiness."
Jarod gazed at her with deep sadness. "My entire life is been a lie."
"No Jarod, you have a family out there and you have to find them." Parker insisted.
"I don't have any family." Jarod whispered, too exhausted to raise his voice. He could feel the tears welling in his eyes. "I have no one."
"WHAT AM I AND SYDNEY, CHOPPED LIVER?" Parker replied in a hurt tone.
"Oh No Miss Parker, I'm sorry." Jarod said looking away. He had no control over his emotions at the moment and he hated to feel so vulnerable.
"Jarod, you always said that you would never give up." Parker said as she approached the tall man and gently took hold of his good arm. "And we are not going to let you do that now."
Jarod was startled with her words and sudden closeness. "But Miss Parker..." Jarod began, but she cut him off.
"No Jarod, they are your parents, no matter what, and you owe them that much." Parker said softly staring into his pain-filled gaze. "Jarod they never gave up on you. They love you."
Suddenly, a flash of memory invaded Jarod's mind and he remembered his conversation with Louis at the old Oakview Lodge. "Louis, do you know if I was their son or if I was adopted?" And Louis answer was, "I don't know, I just know that they loved you very much."
When Jarod snapped back to reality, he felt light-headed and knew that he had to sit down before his legs would give out on him. Jarod freed his arm from Parker's hold and began to walk slowly towards an old log bench in the middle of the pier.
Immediately noticing his blanched appearance, Parker again took hold of his arm and helped him to the bench. Once he was seated, she asked, her voice filled with concern, "Jarod, are you alright?"
"I'm fine Miss Parker" Jarod said rubbing his eyes tiredly. "Just need to rest for a few minutes."
"Sydney told me that you hardly sleep."
"Old habits die hard Miss Parker." Jarod said with a weak smile. "Besides, thanks to the Centre, sleep was something I learned to live without."
"Jarod, the Centre and the Triumvirate are gone." Parker said simply. "You don't need to run anymore." She wanted to make Jarod understand that he was finally free, but how much of that was really true? She still had to tell him about Lyle.
"They say that the truth will set you free and now that I have found it, I can't stop running away from it." Jarod sighed morosely.
"Then STOP running, Jarod." Parker said softly. "I know that you won't vanish, because there is an emotional umbilical between you and Sydney...And whether you believe it or not, he loves you like a son."
"I don't know anymore." Jarod said defeated.
"YES YOU DO JAROD." Parker knelt in front of him, placed her hands on his knees and looked straight into his dark chocolate eyes. "Sydney was the only family you had since you were a child. He cares for you and he always been there for both of us. Jarod let him help you at least until you find your real family."
"He lied to me." Jarod said casting his eyes down and trying to hide the tears that threatened to fall again. "All these years, he knew the truth and..." Jarod stopped, choking on the words. After wiping an errant tear from his cheek with the back of his hand, Jarod shifted his gaze back to his friend and continued in a tortured voice, "How can I trust him again?"
"Jarod, I was lied to as well..." Parker paused for a moment and then continued sombrely, "Even my mother lied to me, but she had her reasons. The same reasons Sydney had...To protect us."
Jarod exhaled deeply and nodded. Parker was right and she understood his pain better than anybody. Maybe, because they both had lost their mothers at a very young age and both had survived living in the depth of that hell called the Centre amidst the lies, loneliness and pain, but at the same time a very special friendship was born and proof of it was right in front of him.
Without saying a word, Jarod grasped one of Parker's hands and pulled on it gently, asking her to get up from where she was kneeling in front of him. Parker complied, stood and sat next to Jarod on the old log. Side by side they sat in silence staring at the lake and lost in their thoughts.
They had no idea how long they had been sitting there when Angelo came running towards them with more wild flowers in his hand. Smiling, Angelo stood in front of Miss Parker and handed her a small bouquet of flowers.
"BLACK-EYED SUSAN!" Angelo shouted startling Parker. "FUNNY"
"Thank you Angelo." Parker said tenderly, her lips curling into a soft smile as she accepted the flowers from the empath. "They are very nice."
Jarod looked at Parker astonished. This was a side of his huntress he had not seen in a long time. A softer, gentler side that reminded him of the charismatic little girl he had befriend at the Centre a lifetime ago. Back then, she was like a bright light that had made his isolated existence more tolerable, until the Centre snuffed out her shining spirit, but he'd always felt that her compassion, strength and true identity lay dormant beneath the mask she had been forced to wear all these years to hide her pain and loneliness.
Feeling the weight of his stare, Parker glanced at the pretender and found him looking at her intensely, a bewildered look on his face.
"WHAT?" Parker snarled with more spite in her voice than she intended.
"Nothing" Jarod replied quickly, and then continued cautiously, "Is nice to see you smile again."
Suddenly, Parker felt regret for snapping at him, embarrassed she shifted her gaze back to the little man in front of her which only made matters more difficult. Once again, Parker found herself struggling to control her laughter. Angelo was wearing Jarod's dark sunglasses and his disheveled hair was blowing wildly in the wind.Pretending to cough, Parker discreetly hid a stifled laugh by covering her mouth with her hand. When she felt she was back in control Parker smiled at Angelo and said, "Angelo, can you go gather more flowers and we'll put them in a vase later."
"Sydney like?" Angelo asked happily.
"Yes Angelo, Sydney will like that."
As soon as Angelo left their side, Parker noticed that Jarod had a silly grin on his face. She gazed at him sharply, still unable to let her guard down.
"What's so funny Pez-head?"
"Angelo...His innocence and kindness is like a shining light." Jarod said sincerely.
"Yes, and our Guardian Angel" Parker added with a smile.
Once again they sat in silence. After what seemed like hours, Parker looked down at the flowers in her hand and started. "Thank you for the orchids." She said softly, keeping her eyes lowered. "They were beautiful."
"I'm glad you liked them." Jarod replied, a ghost of a smile on his lips, but the deep sadness was still present in his voice. "Miss Parker, why are you here?"
"Sydney asked me to talk to you." Parker said simply then paused looking for the right words. "In the past, you've always came to my aid when I needed help or when I was hurting...I figured it was my turn to return the favor." Parker finished almost whispering.
"Miss Parker, you don't need to feel obligated."
"JAROD, STOP THIS MOROSE ATTITUDE." Parker spat back angrily. She just wanted to hit him over the head with something to make him see that things had changed. Tiredly, Parker closed her eyes and rubbed the bridge of her nose. After a moment of silence she continued, "Now, that things have changed, I just think is time to stop this cat and mouse game and..." Parker paused again. "And put an end to this Damn Parker curse."
Jarod didn't reply or looked at her; he just sat there staring at the pier floor like he could see right through the old wooden boards.
"Jarod...You once asked me, how did we end-up like this? Alone and searching when we both wanted the same thing; Someone to care about, someone to care about us." Parker said softly. "Jarod, the game is over and we're not alone anymore, but we must continue the search to find our loved ones."
Jarod raised his head and looked at Parker puzzled.
"Jarod, I need your help." Parker said suddenly.
"You need my help?" Jarod asked stunned.His eyes now focused on the woman next to him.
Parker had no idea how Jarod was going to react to this new revelation, but she knew she could not keep this secret from him. They both had been fed lies their entire life. Now it was time to start anew with the truth, no matter how painful.
Nervously, Parker reached into her pants pocket, retrieved the small photo and handed it to Jarod saying, "He needs our help."
When Jarod looked at the picture, his eyes widened with shock. Staring back at him was the face of a small boy approximately four years of age. His complexion was very fair almost like a porcelain doll and his hair was light brown, but what shocked Jarod the most was his dark brown eyes. They transmitted so much sadness.
Jarod looked back at Parker, his face suddenly very serious. "Parker, when did you learn about him?"
For a moment Parker just stared at the pretender unable to find the right words.Finally, she took a deep breath, stood from the old log bench and walked a few steps.With her back turned to Jarod she began slowly, "After the collapse of the Centre, I went back to look for him, but he was gone. Then I found his file in the box of files that was sent to me."
"WHAT FILES?" Jarod interrupted.
"Someone sent me a box filled with old files and DSA's; Files pertaining to the Pretender Project and of all the children that were taken by the Centre." Parker stopped momentarily, her throat tightening. "The children my mother tried to save, including us...Then I found his file, titled, Genesis II."
"Where is he now?" Jarod asked with concern in his voice.
"He was quietly transferred to Africa five months ago."
"What are you going to do?" Jarod asked, his eyes fixed on the face of the little boy.
"Jarod, I need your help to find him." Parker said faintly. "He needs us."
"THOSE BASTARDS!" Jarod exploded, his eyes tearing from the anger and shock. Enraged, he sprung from the old bench and walked pass Parker stopping at the other edge of the pier. "WHO GAVE THEM THE RIGHT TO DO THIS?"
"Jarod, Ethics were never in the Centre's agenda." Parker said simply. "You and I know that better than anyone."
Jarod just nodded, his back still turned to her.
"JAROD, HOW DO YOU THINK I FEEL? MY GOD, I DELIVERED HIM MYSELF AND I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW HE WAS MY..." Parker stopped suddenly, the emotions and anger shocking her.
After a few minutes when Jarod did not respond, Parker walked up to him grabbed his good arm and spun him around. She looked into his eyes and said sharply, "DO YOU WANT HIM TO GROW-UP SEARCHING FOR THE TRUTH TO HIS PAST LIKE YOU?"
Unfazed by Parker's harsh words, once again Jarod lowered his eyes to the picture in his hands, then he answered in a defeated tone, "No Parker, I don't want that for him."
"Then you'll help me?" Parker asked hopefully.
Jarod raised his eyes from the picture and finally met Parker's concern gaze. He felt a stabbing pain in his heart and his own sadness turning to anger when he saw the pain in her eyes. The same pain he had seen in her eyes when her mother was killed and when she lost Thomas. Hopelessly, he had tried to take away that pain from her life, but the Centre pulled them apart and raised a wall of lies between them, shattering their special bond.Now, finally the Centre was gone and he was going to do everything in his power to bring back her smile.
"Yes Parker, I'll help you." Jarod answered and gently squeezed her arm.
"Thanks" Parker said with a faint smile.
"Parker, did you read any of the other files?"
"No, I only read his file." She paused nervously. "I tried on several occasions, but I needed to find you first, but when I found his picture..." Parker discreetly wiped away an errant tear from her cheek. "I had to read his file and that's when I discovered the red files of the donors." Parker finished, her voice filled with anguish.
"It should not shock us that they would try again." Jarod said furiously. "Your mother was their first trial for Mirage."
"And they gave us Ethan." Parker finished with a sad smile.
Suddenly, Parker's bitter laughter broke the long silence that had fallen between them.
Jarod looked at her inquisitively.
Parker shifted her gaze back to Jarod and after giving him a long look she began with a tortured voice, "Now I understand what my fa...Mr. Parker meant when he said that the New Parker Legacy began with me." Parker looked away, blinking back the tears that threatened to fall. She hated to feel this vulnerable in front of Jarod.
"Who was involved in the Genesis II project?" Jarod asked suddenly very serious.
"Mr. Parker and Lyle." Parker said cautiously, her eyes back on the pretender.
"THAT BASTARD!" Jarod growled.
"Speaking of the devil, I received a call from Lyle just before I came here." Parker said simply.
"WHAT DID HE WANT?" Jarod asked, the muscles in his jaw tightening with rage.
"He wanted me to tell you that the hunt was not over." Parker said softly, almost fearing the pretender's reaction.
"I know that...It will never be over for me."
"Well, you shouldn't worry about Lyle too much. He's also on the run." Parker said with a smile.
"What do you mean?" Jarod asked surprised, his eyes meeting Parker again.
"The authorities and the Yakusa are looking for Lyle, so he won't be bothering you for a while." Parker said with jubilance.
"What about the Bounty? The authorities are probably looking for me as well." Jarod said unable to hide the bitterness and concern in his voice.
"Jarod we have the DSA's and the pretender project files as probe of your innocence." Parker said earnestly and grasped his arm gently. "Besides, I'm sure that many of the people that you helped will come forward in you behalf."
"And then I will be charged for impersonating a doctor, a psychologist, a fireman, a lawyer, a law enforcement officer, an FBI agent, should I continue?"
"ALRIGHT! I get the point." Parker said frustrated.
"The running will never stop for me Parker." Jarod said discouraged.
"Well, we can always go with our old story and say that you're crazy." Parker said snickering.
"Oh that's a great ideal Parker. Then, they lock me up again." Jarod replied annoyed.
"Don't worry Jar, we'll think of something." Parker said tucking her hand into his elbow and began to guide him back to the beach. "Now we better go talk to Syd before he gives himself an aneurism and you better listen to him and do something about that arm." Parker finished in a reprimanding tone.
Jarod just stared at her with a blank expression. Stunned at the changes in her demeanour and hearing the use his nickname again, like when they were kids. Slowly, they walked in silence side by side for a few minutes, and then Jarod looked at her and said, "Angelo."
"What about Angelo?" Parker asked confused.
"He sent you those files and DSA's." Jarod said smiling.
"THAT LITTLE MONKEY" Parker said fuming. "HE HAD ALL THOSE RECORDS IN HIS POSSESSION!"
"Yes, but we're lucky Angelo was the one who had them or they might have been lost forever along with Genesis." Jarod added trying to calm Parker.
"I guess you're right." Parker agreed and sighed tiredly.
After a prolonged moment of silence, Jarod asked faintly, "Parker, what's his name?"
"There was no name on the file. He was only known as Baby Parker or Genesis."
"That's so typical of the Centre." Jarod uttered angrily, a look of repugnance on his face. "To remove any trace of identity."
"I know, but what's important now is that we find him." Parker said, her voice laced with concern.
"Parker, how soon can we leave for Africa to start the search?"
"As soon as possible, but first you have to see a doctor about your arm and fulfill the promise you made to Sydney."
Jarod stopped suddenly and faced Parker, a questionable look on his face. "What promise?"
"To go fishing with him." Parker answered simply and continued walking.
"HOW DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THAT?" Jarod asked surprised and hurried his pace to catch up to her.
"Jarod, I know many things." Parker replied, a mischievous smile curling her lips. "Remember, I was in charge of security at the Centre."
Jarod just smiled and they continued to walk in silence by the water's edge. He still could not believe that Parker had come looking for him, but he was glad that in the end she had changed the story. Finally, they were both on the same path to find the truth and start mending the friendship he though was lost forever. Jarod gazed at his friend intensely and smiled inwardly. No matter how well he thought he knew this amazing woman, she always found a way to surprise him in the end.
Feeling the weight of his stare again, Parker met the pretender's warm eyes and they stared silently at each other for a moment before she exclaimed, "WHAT?"
Startled by her reaction and a little embarrassed, Jarod shifted his gaze back to the lake waters and hesitated a moment before he replied, "You look good Parker."
Equally surprised by Jarod's words, Parker just smiled. After a few minutes of uneasy silence, Parker replied, "I guess being free of the Centre's shackles can improve a person's life."
Jarod simply nodded.
Parker looked at the pretender with scrutiny before she added, "Wish I could say the same about you Jar, but you look like hell."
Jarod smile sadly but remained silent.
Noticing the desolate look on Jarod's face, Parker immediately changed the subject of their conversation, "I just thought of a way we can leave the country without being bothered by the authorities." Parker said upbeat and stopped in front of Jarod. She reached forward and slightly touched his dark hair and bearded face.
Jarod just froze in place, momentarily unable to move or speak. He could feel his heart racing in his chest and his legs shaking and this was not from his weakened state or lack of sleep. Finally, he swallowed hard and managed to find his voice, "How?"
"We will change your appearance completely by dying your hair blonde." Parker replied very confident.
"WHAT?" Jarod cried out surprised. "NO YOU DON'T!" He added and quickly moved away from Parker.
"WHY NOT?" Parker insisted, catching up to him. "JAR, IS A GREAT IDEA AND WITH THE BEARD NO ONE WILL RECOGNIZE YOU!"
"Parker when the time comes, I'll think of something." Jarod said his eyes now sparkling mischievously. "Besides, I'm very good with disguises."
"CHICKEN!" Parker teased.
"Parker, I don't care what you think" Jarod smiled back. "I'm not going to become your guinea pig"
Unexpectedly, Angelo came running out of the woods, happily waving the flowers he had collected for his friends. Without saying a word, he handed the flowers to Parker and began walking along side his friends.
"Thank you Angelo. They are beautiful." Parker said softly.
Angelo giggled shyly lowered his head and hid behind the tall pretender. As they continued walking on the shore, Angelo started collecting small colorful pebbles from the beach and putting them in his pockets. Although the empath seemed busy with his new task, he kept his attention focused on the couple's conversation and playful mocking.
From the shelter of the woods, a pair of eyes glistening with tears followed the three Centre children walking by the water's edge. A caring smile appeared on the old man's face. His joy was beyond measure and he silently thanked God for bringing them together again. The nightmare was finally over, but they still had a long road ahead of them to start the healing and find all their answers and happiness, but most important of all, at last the Centre was gone and they were Free.