Double update! Last chapter last chapter wheee!!!! This is the longest story i've written to date, so I'm glad it's over. Not because I hate it, I don't, I just kept worrying that I'd run into a block and not finish...and there's nothing worse than a story almost being done and you just let it bite the dust. ANYWAYS, thanks to all those who have reviewed, alerted, favorited, told their friends, their mama, their granddaddy, their mistress's sister, and anyone else about my story! (run on, much?) And I hope you enjoy the final chapter of Old Soul.
Told ya'll bitches I already had the ending done. Teehee.
"Do not doubt the power of love. It can be the strongest weapon of all."
Arizona, if it had to be summed up in one word, was hot. Especially in August.
It was the type of hot that made you drown in your own sweat. The kind of hot that was inescapable, even in the freezer aisle at a grocery store. The hot that came from a massive, blinding sun that you were sure was too close to be considered safe. A sun that looked ready to gobble up everything around you, including yourself, at any given moment. Unfortunately for me that didn't happen.
Caesar tried to convince me to come back sometimes. He usually called me at an average of least three times a week (usually more, never less) just to talk. I knew he called me so much to make sure I hadn't somehow managed to jump off a skyscraper or waste away in my small, one roomed house that sat alone in the desert, a good twenty miles from the closest city. He had nothing to worry about. I was so unmotivated, even trying something as foolish as taking my own life would require much more energy than I was willing to put into it.
He'd chat about Cindy, who had finally decided to set a date for their wedding sometime this fall, especially since she was pregnant. He asked me how Riley was doing, since he'd surprised us all and joined the military, which was now reconfiguring itself, along with the government, to try and establish some kind of peace. They mainly traveled the country, repairing destroyed cities and rebuilding broken towns. Sometimes Maya even came into the conversation; Maya had returned to her own hometown of Detroit to help rebuild it. She was doing fine, considering that we still hadn't heard from Cairo, who had went back to Chicago sometime in February to try and find his little brother. A lot of deaths were reported in mid-March in the area he'd lived in, and we did our best not to voice what we were all thinking: that there was a good chance he was one of them.
Denial, it was our friend. Denial seemed to be all we had.
Caesar always begged me to tell him where I was, but I never gave in. It wasn't that I didn't want to see him; it was just that I couldn't face everyone who had been there that day in December. Not now. Not yet. I could barely even face myself.
"Well, you're gonna come back up here soon, right?" He always asked. I'd sigh.
"Of course. Soon."
We both knew without speaking that soon wouldn't come for a long, long time.
Being that I was alone, it gave me plenty of time to think. It gave me time to sleep. It gave me time to grieve. I could lie on my bed and watch the light pour in through the windows (if I didn't have the curtains over them, which I usually did), examining the shadows they made on the floor as the sun completed its journey through the sky. Time was something I had plenty of. Maybe I had too much of it.
Nighttime was always the worst. For some reason I could sleep peacefully during the day but when the sunlight was gone and the sky was dark, so were my dreams. More often than not I couldn't even sleep for more than a couple of hours before I was up, sitting on the old rickety steps outside my front door and watching the moon take the same path as the sun had, as if they were forever locked in a game of tag. I liked to think, even if there most likely wasn't some all powerful being out there, that she was somehow watching me. I liked to think that wherever she was, she was okay. That she was a lot happier there than she'd been here.
It didn't help; I still felt the stabbing pains in my chest as if someone was gripping my heart, my lungs, and twisting them so tightly together it hurt just to breathe. Not a second went by when I didn't see her face, her smile, and that final look she'd given me before I'd just left her there to die. I hadn't cried since my grandad died, yet all I'd done the first night I'd gotten to Arizona was sit in the rain for hours, trying to convince myself that I wasn't really crying, that it was just all the goddamn rain (the only rain there'd been since I'd even gotten here).
My chest ached. My body ached. My mind was so fuzzy, so tired. I never imagined that it could be so much of a burden, having to go on without the only person you were living for. I thought that keeping her at a distance would save me so much heartache when in the end, it was ten times worse. I'd lie on my bed. I'd lay on the floor, too tired and listless to worry about how dusty it was. I'd lie on the porch, staring at the sky. It was as if I was waiting, waiting to live or waiting to die. Waiting for a solution, some kind of veil of clarity, to fall over me and give me something to live for. But it never came.
Sometimes, I'd even think that I heard her. I'd hear the whistling of the wind as it howled around my tiny house, swearing to myself that I'd heard her laughter. Sometimes, when I was dazing in and out of consciousness I'd feel as if her fingers, so soft and delicate, were trailing gently against my cheek. Once in a while, if my front door was open, I'd guarantee that a flash of movement, too quick for me to catch, was her. It was enough to drive me crazy, and I was sure that I wasn't too far from that point.
Which was why it was so normal for me to be sitting on the wooden steps that led to the porch, my head bowed to my knees. It was windy as hell today, which was good if you enjoyed dirt and sand getting embedded in your eyes, which I didn't. I also couldn't stand to be alone in that house one more second though, so the risk of temporary blindness won out. Since I was outside, the sun beaming directly overhead and rapidly baking me within an inch of my life, it was the only way I heard the engine.
At first, I didn't pay attention to it, since I was only about a ten minute drive from the air base, and it was probably someone going there. Otherwise why would anyone in their right mind come out here? There was nothing out here but rocks, lots of dirt, a few cactuses, and…
I was just considering that as the engine got closer, the roaring of it sounding awfully close. For a moment the sound didn't go anywhere and I lifted my head, even though I still didn't look in my left, which was the direction it was coming from. Then, the engine cut off completely.
I refused to look that way. Not because I was afraid, but because I knew that sound anywhere. It was a motorcycle. And there were only two options as to why someone would be coming out here to see me on a motorcycle.
One, Caesar had found me. Which would be annoying more than anything, but a way better option than two, which was one of the last extremists had finally caught up to me and wanted to finish me off.
As bad as it sounds, the second option didn't seem so bad either. I lowered my head again, ignoring the sound of boots crunching gravel over on the old dirt road a good few yards away from my house. I sighed.
Well, if it was my time to go, then fine. I wouldn't fight it. I didn't have any energy to fight it. Old Huey would have been drop kicked the trespasser by now, but then again old Huey had died the day that he'd watched the only person he loved sacrifice her own life for him. But new Huey? New Huey was fine with this. Shit, new Huey wasn't doing much living anyways, so what was the difference?
The footsteps got closer, and I realized they weren't heavy, like Caesar's. In fact, they weren't heavy like the typical male footsteps period. This new knowledge interested me enough where I looked up for the first time, blinking into the bright sunlight that made the person look like a black shadow in my vision. I shielded my eyes with my hand, lowering my head so that I could at least work from the bottom up.
The first thing I noticed was the boots. They were cowboy boots, dark brown with pink trim and some pink design on each of them. So it definitely wasn't a guy…unless it was a gay guy.
Great. They sent some transvestite to kill me. That would be a great way to go. I could see people at my funeral now, whispering in hushed tones: "Huey Freeman, badass of Chicago, couldn't even take down a tranny."
The person finally stopped in front of me, a few feet away. I looked up slowly, taking in the tone, tanned legs before my eyes drifted up to spot the brown shorts, the hot pink tank top, and the faded brown leather jacket that covered it. I finally let my eyes land on the helmet that was covering her(it had to be a woman, no way could someone who had a body like that be a man) face, the helmet that she was reaching for with slender fingers to pull off her head. My breath caught in my throat, making my lungs tighten. My heart, which I had suspected to have died ages ago, was suddenly kicking in high gear, the pounding so hard I could hear it in my ears.
No. No. There was no way…
And yet, as she pulled the helmet from her hood, shaking out her long, glossy hair that was as bright as the sun itself, I felt my eyes widen. I rubbed them, and blinked. I opened them again. The woman opened her eyes, her green irises flashing as she groaned, letting the helmet clatter to the ground beside her.
"Why did no one warn me that Arizona was so damn hot?" She asked, peeling a backpack off of her shoulders and dropping it down as well. She winced, massaging her shoulder. Her leather jacket was the next to go, and she looked at me as if we had this conversation every day. "It was bad enough that my thighs were sticking to that freaking motorcycle, and then I almost got arrested for drug possession when I had to give myself a shot in a diner, but then I swear I almost choked to death on sand. Then again the humidity's down here and that's pretty nice for my hair." She regarded me with a look. "Why would you live here?"
I couldn't find my voice. I hadn't spoken aloud literally in weeks. I hadn't seen another living soul in even longer. The only sign that the world around me still held life had been the planes that tended to fly overheard quite frequently, and the ringing of my phone that I'd gotten accustomed to ignoring.
I was hallucinating. I had to be.
"You-" My throat was raspy, my vocal chords probably working in overtime to get the dust off of them. "This is impossible." I shook my head. "I've finally cracked. I've lost my damn mind."
Jazmine, or should I say the figment of my imagination, shook her head, her lips forming a soft smile. "You haven't cracked, Huey."
Her voice! Her voice sounded so rich, so full of vitality. My imagination was good.
"See, you're wrong." I couldn't believe I was bothering to talk to myself, but who was around to witness it? It wasn't like I hadn't done weirder things in my lifetime. "Because Jazmine-" Just saying her name gave me chills and it was almost one hundred degrees outside. " Jazmine is dead. She died seven months ago." I shook my head again, feeling another wave of grief wash over me. "So, if you could go away so that I can refrain from having to add "mentally unstable" to my list of problems that would be greatly appreciated."
Jazmine looked slightly annoyed. The wind was blowing through her wavy hair, sending strands of the copper colored locks in her face. She reached up with both hands, tucking it behind her ears.
"Huey." Her voice was softer, patient. "I'm not dead. I'm right here."
I jumped to my feet, my fists clenched. I glared down at her. "Is this some kind of sick joke?" I yelled, glancing around and throwing up my hands, as if the earth would really respond. "Huh?" I let my hands drop to my sides, my eyes settling on her again. She looked like she wanted to cry.
"Every day," I said in a low, dangerous voice. "Every damn day, every damn night, I've had to live with the fact that I lost her. Every waking moment, every non-waking moment, I've had to force myself to come to terms with the fact that I have to live the rest of my life without her!" I pointed at her. "So, I don't have time to deal with figments of my imagination. Just leave. Let me just go back to being miserable instead of getting my hopes up."
Jazmine's eyes were full of tears. "I swear. I swear, this isn't some joke. I'm not trying to hurt you. I'm really here." She took a step towards me, a tremor in her voice. "And I'm not leaving. Not now, not ever."
My glare intensified. "Prove it."
I watched her as slowly, carefully, she walked towards me, her piercing emerald eyes never leaving mine. She held out her hand towards me, her eyes pleading. Hesitantly, doubtfully, I lifted my own hand, gently brushing my fingers against her's.
The initial shock of feeling actual flesh was so great that I jerked my hand back as if I'd been shocked. Jazmine burst out laughing, taking another step closer and resting her palms on my shoulders. The wind was pushing against us now so it blew her hair off of her shoulders.
"Do you believe me now?" She asked, letting one of her hands drift down my chest until it was resting directly over my heart. I swallowed, trying to calm my racing heart. I felt as if someone had struck a match and lit my insides on fire. Only, for the first time in over half a year, it wasn't a bad feeling.
I felt like a living, breathing human being. I felt…alive.
"You died." I looked at her, lifting my hand to stroke her cheek. It was solid and soft against my fingers and she leaned into my touch, closing her eyes as if she were savoring the moment. "We left you, and the place was destroyed-"
"You aren't the only one good at faking deaths," She said, opening her eyes again and looking at me. "I guess I learned from the best."
"But…the place exploded, Jazmine." My mind was still in shock, and was taking a moment to process all this, which was funny being that I was usually quick about these things. "It blew up. With you inside."
"Yeah, but the trapdoor that I fell through from the blast didn't. Don't act like you didn't notice all those chambers in that place. I'm not the only one who found one. In fact, a few people got out in better shape than I did." Jazmine rolled her eyes at my look of disbelief.
She rolled her eyes. Never had the sight of someone's annoyance been so beautiful.
"I do have battle scars, if you don't believe me," She said, lifting up her hair and turning around. I felt my stomach drop as I took in the massive scar from an apparent burn that started a couple inches below her hairline, covering the majority of the back of her neck. Being that the healing skin disappeared below the line of the back of her shirt, as well as peeked out a bit from under the strap on the back of her left shoulder, it was obvious that there was more. "And I have to do shots twice a day. Which, you know, isn't too bad. Only not really." She looked over her right shoulder at me, letting her hair drop back down to cover it.
"I would've been here sooner," She explained, turning towards me again. "It took me over five months to even get out the hospital. All those damn skin grafts and hormone injections to fight whatever they gave me in prison about did me in. Then I tried to go back to New York to find you after I got out, but you were gone. I went back to Chicago. It was only when I tracked down Katrina, Hiro's old girlfriend, that I was able to find you'd moved out here. And even with her it was a challenge. You hid yourself pretty well." She looked less sure of herself, folding her arms over her chest. Her right hand migrating up to touch the side of her neck; it was a self conscious gesture. "I was going to try and find Caesar and Cindy next. But…I just had to see you." She looked at me again. "I had to know you were okay."
I stared down at her, still trying to grasp that she was alive. She was as solid, as real as I was. Slowly, I let my hand touch her shoulder, carefully letting my fingers slide, sneaking underneath her hair, until I could feel the rough, uneven skin on the base of her neck. She lifted her head to look at me just as I gently pulled her into my chest, kissing her.
It was slow, soft. I let my eyes close, my other hand rising to rest under her chin. Her own hands came to rest on my shoulders, her fingertips sending tiny pulses of electricity through my skin. I lifted my head, staring down at her and cupping her face in my hands as if she were some lost treasure.
Jazmine looked slightly relieved. "I am." She poked my chest. "So are you." She looked at me as if examining me closer and sighed, running her own hand down the side of my face. She frowned. "Barely."
I snorted. I could feel tiny pieces of me coming back together; threading and weaving and locking into place. "You had me thinking I'd finally lost it."
"You had me thinking you'd finally lost it." She rested both of her palms on my chest again. "I'm glad you didn't."
"And what if I had?" I couldn't help but challenge. She smiled, even though she was giving me a "duh" look.
"I would've helped you find you again." She smirked, looking back towards the road, where her motorcycle as well as her few possessions lay. "Just like you'll have to help me find my crap if the sand doesn't stop burying it. Arizona, Huey?" She shook her head. "Really?"
I was so happy to hear her complaining, so happy to hear her at all, that I laughed. It was so loud, so surprising, that I cut off abruptly. She raised her eyebrow.
"So." She nodded towards my house. "I'm pretty tight on cash and low on gas. You think you've got enough room in that shack for another person? Temporarily, of course," She added.
I felt my face fall. "Temporarily."
"Well, yeah." Jazmine walked towards the road, an action that made my heart stop again. This girl was going to kill me. She looked over her shoulder. "I'd hate to take up all your space. And it would be rude to impose."
"Well." I tried to keep the desperation out of my voice. But shit, I wasn't afraid to admit it, I was desperate. She couldn't just leave me alone again! "I guess you could stay here. Temporarily."
Those didn't look like the words she wanted to hear, but before she could even think about saying anything else I went on.
"You know…until I move somewhere more permanent." I shrugged casually, shoving my hands in my pockets and trying to ignore how my black T shit flapped in the wind. Her eyes widened. "You could come too, I guess. That is, if you wanted." I smirked.
She stared at me for a long moment, her mouth breaking into a huge grin and her eyes lighting up brighter than I'd ever remembered them being. Me, the man who hadn't smiled in seven months, smiled for probably the third time in the past few minutes.
"Is that okay?" I asked.
In response Jazmine ran to me, her arms outstretching in front of her as she jumped into my arms. She slammed her lips against mine, laughing in my mouth as I lifted her, spinning us around in a circle. I grinned, kissing her back until my lungs were screaming for air, until I was lightheaded and felt as airy as the wind around us. Instead of setting her back on the ground I held her to my chest, gazing up into her eyes. She was laughing, sounding pretty winded herself.
"I have to get my stuff-" She started but I cut her off with another kiss, moving my arms so that I was holding her bridal style against my chest. I broke the kiss, giving her a look.
"I really don't want to let you go right now." She wrapped her arms around my neck. "I'm still afraid that if I do, you'll disappear and I'll wake up and this will all have been a dream. And then I'll really lose it. Give me an hour. Or two." I thought about it. "Or all night…"
Jazmine laughed, her face coloring. "It would only take a few moments-"
"Hell no." I shook my head. "That's way too long."
"Well, I don't want a Coyote or some lunatic hobo running off with-"
I kissed her again, already starting towards the house. "It's Arizona, not Australia. Besides, they don't come out until nighttime. And they usually stay by the hills and they're a good twenty miles away."
"The hobos or the Coyotes?"
I smirked. Not even five minutes of her being back and I already felt my sarcasm returning. "Both."
Jazmine bit her lip, smirking as well. "Well, I don't really want to let you go either." She looked up at me, tracing my jaw line with her finger. "I missed you so much."
She had no idea. "I missed you." I paused. "I missed you more than I thought I could ever miss anyone."
I'd always thought that people needed to learn how to be functional on their own, with no emotional attachments. And maybe that was true.
But not for me.
I needed her. I needed her more than anything. And I loved her. I'd always loved her.
As if reading my mind Jazmine shifted in my arms, sitting up so that she could kiss me again. "I love you," She said softly. I swallowed, taking in the way the sun seemed to make her skin glow, the way her eyes sparkled as they stared into my eyes…how could I have ever thought that I could live without her?
"I love you, too." I heard the phone ringing from inside the house and mentally groaned. "I guess I should tell Caesar I'm ready to come back."
Jazmine smiled up at me. "I think he'd like that."
"Then again…"I ignored the phone, glancing around before smirking at her. "I could always wait a few days. Or a week."
Jazmine's eyebrow arched. "Why?"
I gave her a look of my own. "Why do you think?"
Jazmine giggled. "We don't have to go yet. But I mean, I could at least tell him. Or you could tell him and let me talk to him-"
"I will! Just…not now. Or later. Or the rest of the night." I shrugged as she shook her head, rolling her eyes. "I'll tell him and Cindy, and even call Riley. I'll even ring up Maya in Detroit and you can talk to her. And we'll go back. And we'll get our own place that's not as small as a closet or in a hot ass desert and have the rest of our lives to go talk to anyone we want, whenever. But right now, I don't feel like sharing you. For at least the next twenty-four hours, I just want you to myself."
Jazmine grinned as I carried her up the porch steps. "That doesn't sound like a bad idea at all."
I snorted, bending my head down to kiss her again. I kicked the door closed with my foot, locking the door with one hand.
It was a good thing that we were so far away from everyone else, and that it was so easy to just leave the phone off the hook. The privacy I'd come to hate in the past few months was now my best friend.
I had a feeling we were going to need it.
So, when I originally started this story, Jazmine was supposed to die. But I couldn't do it. Not that I wouldn't ever kill off a main character in a story, so don't put it past me. Thanks for being awesome! And I hope you've all learned a valuable lesson...please, put your views and opinions aside and shut the hell up. And let people be people. Otherwise the world will blow up and we'll all die. K, thnx, bye. :D
No, there will not be a sequel. No, there won't be a prequel. And no, there won't be a lemon (you pervs). Make up your own freaking lemon and if you're that hell bent on there being one send it to me. Geez. :P
Happy reading! (And for heaven sake's, review. It IS the last chapter, meanies. :O)