It was February 28, my 16th birthday, the last one I celebrated. Since the day started I've been running for my life, ducking behind cars and jumping out of windows as bullets pass by my face and my mother tries to crawl away from her. Cameron was sent by me to protect me, and since I was born she's been the biggest threat to me yet I haven't been as close to anyone else. 5'6" and yet she flipped an S.U.V. with her bare hands. Most people wouldn't trust their eyes after seeing that, but if I second guess what's happening I wouldn't be able to see anything again. that's the whole reason why I'm in this delivery truck trying it get it running, but the wrong move at the wrong moment could give me away. The last thing I need is for her to find me before I'm ready to make a run for it.
As quiet as I was, it wasn't quiet enough. A wrench smashes through the windshield of the truck, she knows where I am. Like a knee jerk reaction I try to shift gears and I see her. Cameron climbs up the hood of the truck clawing at me like a soulless monster. If she wants me dead, I'm dead and there's nothing I can do about it. I've been told my entire life I would one day save the world, but someone is always saving me. Like my mother, she's vicious with a weapon in her hands and the truck she's driving drove like a sledgehammer into Cameron's back. I have a few moments to get to Cameron and stop her before she breaks free and kills me.
She's told me I've done this before, not in the past but I will in the future. A shallow incision to the rear right skull, pull the skin back, open the canister. I've gone this far before she stops me in my tracks. She yells… No. She cries that she loves me. Loves me? In this split second between the engine roaring and Cameron crying my mind is swimming with what I'm witnessing. She can't mean what she's saying.
Months pass and any sense of normalcy that I've known settles in. Home schooling was my mother's way of trying to compensate for my shattered childhood. An estranged uncle, a violent paranoid mother, and a girl who isn't a girl are the components of my family. It isn't something I pride myself on, but it is all I've ever known. In a way I pray for the nuclear holocaust, it's the only way I could justify my actions, my mother's actions, my life, my mission.
There is one thing that allows me to step away from all of this momentarily; Riley. I didn't really have a connection to her; I've forced myself not to. It's the only way I can do what I do and not add to the masochism of it all. But she's missing. No phone calls, no answer to my calls. It's odd because there's an unnerving feeling in my stomach by not knowing about her. A normal person would feel worry, but I feel guilt. The terrible thing about my feelings is there are seldom wrong. In the hot and arid night I try to look away as my mother tells me Riley's been killed; her body lies in a freezer in a hospital seven miles away. My mother says Cameron might be to blame. Growing up, I had many reasons to hate her when, as I got older the list became longer.
This wobbly old shed barely holds its form. Loose nails and rotted wood fights to hold its shape; a crumbling structure. I open the door and she is there, soft hair and fair skin, physically she's perfect. I'm blunt when I ask her. She denounces by stating I already knew. I hoped, but I'm not sure I did. I will and have entrusted her with my life, and as she hands me the pocket watch she tells me I must do the same. I want to just leave; I want to be strong and walk out the crumbling shed. Strength is something I'll have to live off of in time, but my life as it is only seems to drain me.
Her body is soft and fragile to the eye, but underneath she posses strength and stamina that can't be replicated in nature. Even though she was created to kill, her eyes seem different, almost sad. "Remember what you said to me on my birthday?" I ask trying to hide the shaking in my voice.
"On February 28th, you were awake for 16 hours; you have to be more specific."
"You were pinned between two trucks and said that you loved me and that I loved you. What was that? Were you lying? Were you trying to trick me into letting my guard down?" "No. it wasn't a lie. I only lie when I have to."
She wasn't staring at me anymore. Her sad eyes weren't fixed on mine like they usually are when she's facing me; instead she begins to organize the tools she used to place a bomb into her skull.
"How did it start? Is it because of Riley? Does something happens latter that makes me say that to you? That makes you say it to me?"
I barked at her like I do whenever I get frustrated with anyone. She continues to work without saying a word.
"Cameron? How does it start?"
"I don't know," she replies sheepishly as she maintains the monotone of her simulated voice.
"How can you not know when I said that? You can remember how long I stayed awake eight months ago but you can't remember me saying something like that?"
"You don't love me now, when you do you don't refrain from saying it," she said as she places the tool box underneath the bench where she clenched my hand as I fixed hers. In many ways I had hoped it would stay like that forever, in many ways I hoped she would never touch me again.
"So it happens? Sometime in the future? With you?"
"I only lie when it's dependent on your safety. I can't let anything happen to you. You told me the same."
I close the shed door and drag my feet when in my mind I'm racing up the steps like a kid who's trying to hide under the covers from a monster in his closet. I have no monsters in the closet, but one in my head and another in the hallway. She's always in the hallway and it seems like she always will be. I don't know what'll happen in the future, but I don't want it to happen because it has to.
It's four in the morning when I hear her stomping in the backyard. One heavy stomp after another reminds me that there's a metal body inside of the soles of those motorcycle boots. I try to sleep but I can't. Between my Mother ripping rifles apart, Derek filling the truck with Weapons for a small army, and a Cameron stomping her way up the stairs, I can't find the quiet to fall asleep.
I hear the heels of her boots as she travels down the hallway and stops in front of my door. The lights are off in my room, but the hallway sends her shadow under the doorframe. I don't feel like speaking to her, to Derek, to Mom. I just pretend to be asleep and hope she doesn't come in. I'm reminded that my hopes don't mean anything as the door swings open and her bare feet softly touch the floor between the door and my bed. I keep my eyes closed as my head rests in the palms of my hands, my elbows pointed outward and my chest exposed.
I wonder what she's doing, what she's thinking as she stands over me. I feel uncomfortable. Not worried like I'm in danger, but awkward. Awkward like I used to feel standing in the hallways of school with everyone staring at me like I was an animal in the zoo. As I try to block out the memories of all the awkward stares from people who will either die in a nuclear blast or die shortly after, I try not to move as I feel the mattress shift to the left as Cameron sits on the bed. I try not to speak or move as her feet brush up against my calf, and her legs rests on mine. She places her hand on my thigh and it finds its way underneath my shirt to stomach just below my sternum; if she wants me dead this is a good chance to do it. My pulse starts to race; I start to breath heavy, almost panting. I'm actually afraid. More nervous than afraid, but afraid still.
I slide my right hand behind my pillow, hoping she won't notice. My finger wraps around the trigger of the Desert Eagle. I can't call to Mom; by the time she gets out of her room I'll be dead. My thumb searches for the safety. If I call to Derek He won't make it past the first steps before her arm is wrist deep into my chest.
I slide my thumb on the dial, her head meets my chest. Her hair smells like a fruity shampoo. Something like passion fruit and chemicals, at least that's how she would describe the smell, explaining each compound in order as it appears on the bottle. Her brown hair somehow seems to standout in the darkness of the room. I slide my hand off the pistol and return it under my head. I try to see her face, but I can't see a thing without moving and letting her know I was awake the whole time.
What is she doing? Is this something she does when I always sleep? I hated it when Mom used to watch me sleep. I used to tell her it made me feel like a freak, like how kids used to stare at me in school when everyone heard my mother was in a mental hospital. When she was lying on top of me it felt different, not like the judgmental look everyone gave me, or the problematic stare Mom gave me. It almost felt warm.
I wasn't sure if she needed to breathe, but I could feel the warmth of her breath and her hand mesh together, making my chest turn pink. I start breathing deep, trying to hide the fact I was panting. The way she strokes my stomach with her thumb sets in a feeling of calm and nervousness. There's no way she doesn't know that I'm not sleeping.
I tried to fight the fatigue, but a few minutes after she came in my room I fell asleep. All the excitement in my life makes sleeping hard to get to, but when I do its hard to fight. The time on my cell phone reads 12:30 p.m., I sit up in my bed and no one is there. The house sounds empty and the truck is not parked in front of the house like it usually is. I know I'm not alone. They never leave me alone.I try to walk quietly in the hallway. I'm not sure why, but if anyone is here I don't want them to know I'm awake. I pass by Cameron's room and then Mom's room. As I here the clicking of shotguns. My mother is cleaning every gun in the house. It's the only thing she does when she isn't working out, trying to cook, or keeping me alive.
"There's some pancakes in the kitchen. The microwave, just heat them up for 30 seconds," she said without looking at me, which usually means there's going to be something she'll scream at me about. "Thanks Mom."
"I saw her this morning," her eyes fixed on the bottle of oil as she polishes the barrel of the shotgun. "Her? What are you talking about?"
"Cameron. I saw her leave your room this morning," she stopped cleaning her gun and laid it next to the others that covered the floor in front of her. "Cameron. She left your bedroom this morning before you woke up. Why?"
"I didn't know she was in my room until now. I don't know what she was doing in there."
Riley told me I had a tell when I was lying. I never believed her. I hope she was wrong, especially now. I try to walk away and her arm snaps like a vice, her fingers dig into my arm as she swings me back around. Her face wasn't angry, but worried. Even when she was screaming about the machines, she was never angry she was always worried.
"Don't lie to me John. If I look at you for a second while you're sleeping, you wake up instantly. How am I supposed to believe that she was in your room and you didn't notice a single thing?"
"So what're you saying? What do you think was going on in there?"
"I don't know John, that's why I'm asking you what happened. In there? In your room?"
I shake my arm free from her tight hold. She is worried, I know why. Cameron told me people wouldn't like how close I was to her. I told her people would have to deal with it, and that includes Mom.
"I have to go heat up those pancakes."
As I walk down the stairs I can feel her eyes piercing into the back of my head. She's disappointed, I can tell. She spent her whole life investing everything in this war. I know what's expected of me. I know what I'm being bred to be, but I spend more time wondering if its something I really want. Maybe things would've turned out better for me if she did go into my room to kill me last night.
The first floor of the house is empty, living room, hallways, and kitchen. No one seems to be around. I turn on the microwave even though I don't feel like eating. Through the kitchen window I can see Derek's blue truck inching closer to the house. The passenger seat is empty, like most days he's alone. Other days he's with Jesse, but he won't be seeing her again, no one will. The microwave beeps. I turn to take the plate and there she is, holding it with an outstretched arm.
"It's hot. Not enough to burn, but hot."
"I need to ask you something," I said as she placed the plate in front of a chair, expecting me to sit down to eat. "But not here, I can't let Mom hear."
I make my way from the house to the shed. I move quickly, knowing I can't dodge Derek's judgmental stares and Mom's constant watching from her bedroom window. She walks close behind me, giving Derek an equally unnerving look.
The broken shed squeaks when I open the door to let her in. Her heels clicking as she walks toward the bench staring at me with her head tilted toward her shoulder.
"Why would Mom ask me what you were doing in my room this morning?" She stays quiet, and her eyes travel from mine onto the floor. She's trying to look distracted, or hoping I'll become distracted.
She continues to stare at the ground silently.
"God damn it. Cameron, just tell me before Derek or Mom come in here. Tell me what you were doing in there when I was asleep?"
"You weren't asleep when I came into your room. You fell asleep fifteen minutes later."
She knew. She knew that I was awake. She knew that I was awake and she still got in bed and curled up next to me like… What was she doing?
"Why? Why did you go in there and do… everything you did?"
"You don't know."
"I don't know? Don't you mean you don't know or you're just not telling me? Which is it?" Her eyes moved from the floor back to my face. Her tilted head straightened and she fell silent again.
"Cameron? What were you doing in my room?"
I wonder if a bad temper is something I got from my father. It wouldn't surprise me living with Derek for so long. I'm tired of being patient. Even though I know she's a killer, I approach her thinking that on some level she might be intimidated enough to tell me the truth.
"My mother saw you walking out of my room this morning. Now she's letting whatever it is that's bothering her build up. If she wants to, she's going to go after you and I can't stop her."
She's unfazed by everything I just said. Her expression doesn't change.
"I was looking for something familiar."
"Familiar? What do you mean familiar?"
"In the future it's how you sleep. It's how I sleep."
I try to hide the fact that what she said surprised me. Familiar? How is any of what she did last night familiar?
"How you sleep? I thought you don't need to sleep."
"I don't have to, but sometimes I want to."
I'm stunned. I don't know what else to say. I don't know what's the next question to ask. They way she sleeps? The way I sleep? I have more questions for myself than I do for her. "Sometimes you want me to, too."
"Have you done it before? Watch me when I'm sleeping? Lay down in my bed?"
Before she can say anything the door swings open. Derek stomps in, dirty clothes and an assault rifle resting on his shoulder.
"John. I could use some help in the truck."
I lead the way as he follows. The door creaks itself closed behind us. The gravel beneath our feet shifts as we make our way to the truck. The flat bed littered with crates of plastique. One by one we move them into a makeshift bunker under the house. It's just like the ones I spent time in as a child in the deserts of Mexico and the forests Nicaragua. The crates are so heavy we can only move them one at a time. My body focused on lifting and moving, my mind focused on what I just learned, and Derek is just focused.
"I don't know what you two were talking about. I don't want to know what you were talking about but I think you need to remember who you are," Derek said, sliding another crate closer.
"You mean remembering that I'm John Connor? I know that. Every day that I'm alive, every time someone dies in this, I'm reminded that I'm John Connor."
"I would say that I believe you, but you're going to have to learn that belief and trust will get you killed in this. There is only one thing that'll keep you alive, and that's knowing who you are and what it is."
"I know. There are two people dead right now because of that."
The crate weighs more than a hundred pounds. We both lower the crate and make our way to the steps, careful to not slip or drop the crate.
"Like I said I don't believe in you. I know that John Baum lives in this house. John Baum is who you are right now. John Connor comes after J-Day. I know what you'll do, because I was there, but not once did I believe in you. You need to start doing the same," Derek said, sighing from the relief on his hands.
I make my way out to the side of the house. The grassy and rocky hillside that over looks the miles of city just beyond the desert.
Its past midnight.
Derek is gone. Mom finally fell asleep for the first time in a week. Cameron is doing whatever it is she does when she isn't marching around the house with a rifle or staring at me in my sleep.
One thing about being so close to the desert is you rarely sweat. The dryness of the sand and the rocks keep you dry if you don't move too much…
Then again maybe I don't know what I'm talking about, because as I'm thinking about the weather I can feel the beads of sweat trail down the nape of my neck. I reach behind my neck and I find her. No sweat, no moisture of any kind. All I find are three pencil thin fingers resting on my neck.
"What are you doing?" I ask holding her fingers in my hand.
"I wanted to know if you were thirsty."
"How would you know that by touching me? You could have just asked me. Besides, if I was thirsty I can get my own water."
"I know you can, but sometimes it's nice to have help."
I release her fingers as I wonder how her eyes seem to glow out here, in the nighttime desert. She sits down in the grass next to me as fireflies gather by the weak light from the shed. They dance in the distance making patterns on the gravel beneath them. I try not to look at her. Her face that looks frozen yet soft and blush at the same time. I look around for something else to distract me until she decides to leave.
One firefly loses his way, flying away from the others. I try not to look back, but I know she's staring at me. The rogue firefly lands on Cameron's shoulder. She doesn't move. My breath becomes heavy, and she knows it. I know she knows it. I look around for anything that isn't her, anything that won't stare back at me like she does. I see Mom staring at her. Cameron. I don't know which is worse to stare at. Which of the two makes me more uncomfortable.
The firefly still sits on Cameron's shoulder, trying to do anything but talk to her; I reach to brush the insect away. I forget how fast her reflexes were, but I remember when she grips my wrist. Tight enough to hold me, but soft enough that all I feel is the heat from the pads of her fingers.
"You had a bug on you."
I immediately looked away but before my face turned away from her, she took my head in her hands.
Her eyes gleaming bright brown with streaks of blue glowed in the dark as she leans in closer to me.
Her hair, dark and thick drapes over her face and brushes past my cheek.
Her lips bright pink and smelling like passion fruit. When our lips met, I knew it tasted like them too. Her tongue was like the lip gloss, not the way it tasted, but the way it felt. It was smooth and slid into my mouth as easy as it repelled back out. I couldn't tell what she was any longer, and when her tongue trailed the roof of my mouth I didn't think about it any longer.
With my head in her hands, she leans away from me. I look back to Mom's room, and no one is there. The blinds are pulled back, and there is no one there. I look back to Cameron, her tight jeans and white tank top made me believe there wasn't anything to fear about her, but her buckled boots reminded me that I needed to know for sure. Even as she stands above me with her hand outstretched toward me I know that Derek is wrong, there are some things you can't know until it is too late; sometimes you have to believe in people.
"I want to sleep."
I took her hand as we passed the dancing fireflies and crumbling shed. We sneak into the house like normal teenagers do. We make our way to my room. Mom's door is closed and the house is silent.
My room newly painted green and a bed that's barely big enough for one seemed smaller still tonight. I barely place my hand on the door knob before she begins to undress. Her delicate long leg slowly emerges from the knee high boots. I'm more uncomfortable than I've been before. I hear the metal clang from the buckles as I remove my sneakers. I twist the knob on the lamp, sending the room into the same darkness that was in the rest of the house.
The room is not as dark as it was the night before. I place my head on the pillow when I feel the bed shift towards my left. She's next to me now. My eyes are open, but they are fixed on the plastic green stars adhered to the ceiling, hoping I would distract myself to sleep and she wouldn't notice.
Just like the night before, her hand rests on my thigh, but it doesn't travel. It doesn't find its way under my shirt; her head doesn't find my chest. Despite my unnerving I had to look at her. I had to know why she wasn't laying with me like she was last night. Lying with me like she was when I had hoped she thought I wasn't aware of it.
"What is it?"
As I look up at her, I notice her shirt is gone. There's nothing there except a black bra and the same tight jeans that pressed against her skin in the desert heat. I rise from the pillow, leaning closer until our faces are all but touching. I'm not sure why, but I know that my body is shaking, and she knows it too.
My eyes travel down her body. Her legs, long and firm like a dancer's. Her hips curving into her tall torso. Pale skin seemed to shine when contrasted with her black bra.
He defined body showed the movement of every muscle, as she shifted from beside me to on top of me. He thighs spread over lap, as she sat in front of me. Her pink lips became brighter as she leaned closer. Her hands on my chest, one traveled to my neck, the other to my stomach. The dusty t-shirt wraps around her hand as she softly pulls it upward.
The shirt now lies on the floor as Cameron's hands unfasten the buckle of her steel dressed leather belt.
"Wha… What are you doing," I fought to say aloud.
Her legs pressed into mine when she leaned forward. The lace from her bra brushed across my naked chest, sending a chill down my body. Her lips resting on my ear lobe as she continued to remove jeans so tight they seemed to keep the rest of her body captive.
"You have to trust me."
She leaned away from me, sliding the denim off of her legs for what seemed like an eternity. Her legs wrapped around my waist when she leaned back to me. My remaining clothes suffocate me.
The taste of passion fruit settles on my tongue as she drives hers over mine. My hands rest on the waist band of grey cotton. Her hands give my body air, as I shift forward allowing the clothes which deprived my legs to breathe slide off of me legs. I hold her close to me as we both fall back onto the bed. Neither tongue loses its rhythm as soft hands travel in opposite directions. My throat cradled in her palm, and her other hand took what was once encased in clothing and began to give it life.
She shifts upward, her back arches like the cat her eyes often resembled. The grey cotton joins the collection of clothes which cluttered the floor beneath us. Her hand still holding me, as she releases my neck and guides my shoulder upward. I cradle her in my arms. Her seemingly endless legs wrapped around me. She feels me in her hands, rigid. Her tongue writhes in my mouth as she moves in closer. I feel the warmth and pressure of her.
Her hand leaves my left shoulder, and scrapes down my back. I could feel the itch from new scars forming. My hands held her at the hip as I fell back. Her legs pressing my sides as circled me, pulling me in every direction she traveled. Her lips pulled away from mine, burying her head into my chest as I fight to catch my breath. My hands on her thighs wanted to push her away, because in this moment I feel like my body would collapse from the pressure building inside of me. Instead I gripped her legs as I felt each muscle move as she danced on me. Her teeth biting into my chest as I dug my fingers into her with equal force.
She found her way back to my mouth as my hands journeyed her chiseled torso. Her hands digging into my back, guiding me upward. Cameron squirms onto her back. I inch up to me knees, careful not to leave the warmth inside of her. Her heels dig into my lower spine, her hands rustling through my hair. My body gets sore as she pulls me closer into her. Her legs locked behind me, as her left hand scarred the left side of my back like she'd done before. I can feel light bleeding from my shoulder blade travel down my back as she places her chin on my shoulder. "John."
The sweetest whisper followed by panting before she bit the lobes of my ear. She either felt what I did, or was faking it well. "Is… Is this… Real?"
"Yes," she whispered as her legs traveled up my back.
Her hips climb higher on me as we were sent back to where we started, her body arched over mine, my hands on her pelvis, following every circle she makes across me. Her tongue tracing the roof of my mouth. A sense of vibration from a series of low moans traveling from her lips to mine.
She places her head beside mine, and I feel the smile spread across her face as the sound of her giggle gives life to a smile across my own lips. The moment felt calm before I felt a shake in the legs that entrapped me. Then the hips as Cameron's breath became hot and faint. The sensation of her quivering on me sent me into a shallow sigh of relief.
Our torsos moist. Our legs soaked. Our pelvises drenched in one another.
She gave me one last kiss before she made her way to the left side of the bed; I made my way to the right. I passed grey underwear, she passed an olive t-shirt. I fastened a single button, she fastened a single buckle.
There we stood, fully clothed and barefoot. Not embarrassed or awkward, not like with Riley. I laid on the bed which was barely big enough for one; she lay beside me. One foot pressed against my calf. Thighs pressed against one another. Her hand underneath my shirt, and her head on my chest. I could feel the warmth from her hand and her breath.
"Is this where it started?"
"I don't know," she said in the monotone that reverberated through my body.
"Was that real? All of it I mean."
"I only lie when it's dependent on your safety," her thigh pressuring mine as it moved in short spurts rubbing our legs together underneath the denim we both wore.
"We can't stop it can we?"
"The war. Them machines. Everything."
"I'm still here."
"Does this mean we'll happen," I asked as I played with a small strand of hair underneath the neon glow of plastic stars.
We become silent. I know her body mimics ours perfectly. Breath, sweat, blood, and tears, she has all of these. I can see her, touch her, smell her; I know she's there, and for the first time I don't doubt it.
I look at her lips pout as she speaks from atop my body.
"I want to sleep."
My head rests on a pillow, a Desert Eagle behind the bed frame, brown hair on my chest, and a sole thumb stroking my stomach. The taste of Cameron was embedded into my memory forever. The feel of her, the sense of her, and the taste of her was forever a part of my memory. Every time our lips met I would be reminded of what she is. Every times our lips meet; I'll be reminded of what I know.