"Steve!" A voice yells.
I nearly choke on my spit as I jerk awake. I was never great at waking up but being yelled at in the middle of the night nearly gives me a heart attack.
Matt's hands are on my shoulders as I try to calm myself down.
"Sorry man. I've been standing here trying to wake you for a while. You sleep like the dead" He notes.
"I've had practice. Is there a reason you needed to scare the crap out of me at…" I reach over and press the button on my talking clock the robotic voice intones that it is 3am.
"3am?" I finish.
"I want to talk about Andrew" Matt says.
"No way, man. We need to stick together now. If there is something you need to say about Andrew you can say it to Andrew or not at all" I say determinedly as I sink back down into my bed.
"Say what to Andrew?" Comes Andrew's voice from the doorway
"I literally just got out of the hospital. Can we do this tomorrow?" I ask hopefully.
"What did you want to say Matt?" Andrew asks his voice deepening.
I guess we're doing this now.
"Let's get out of the apartment" I suggest as I get out of bed and pull on a pair of pants. We don't need to wake up Aisha.
Matt drives us around for a bit until he finds a Diner that is open. Andrew leads me in. He is already so much more comfortable with this than Matt. People are staring but for once I get the impression that they aren't staring at me. Andrew senses my confusion.
"There was a fire. I'm definitely not invisible anymore" He jokes wryly. I can tell that the stares are getting to him.
"You look the same to me" I say wondering if it is the right thing to say.
Andrew laughs. Matt says nothing. We find a table and Andrew places my hand on the back of a booth. I fold up my cane and slide in. Andrew and Matt order coffee. I order tea.
"Tea?" Andrew scoffs.
"I don't want to be up all night. You two idiots wanted to talk. So talk" I insist.
"Andrew I know what your dad is….was like" Matt begins.
"No you don't Matt" Andrew replies calmly "And part of that is my fault, Steve asked a few times and I should have just told him what was going on. You're my cousin and we've known each other our whole lives but you have no idea 'what my Dad' was like. What it was like to live in that house? To get beat up and yelled at every day. To watch my Mum die and my Dad drink himself to death? To get the same crap at school? You have no idea" Andrew finishes calmly.
Matt is silent.
"I knew. I figured you wouldn't leave your Mum. That all we had to do was get through senior year and we would all get out of there and see the world. I thought we would make it" I say.
"You didn't have to kill him" Matt says.
"I didn't mean to" Andrew insists calmly.
"You never do!" Matt cries banging his fist on the table.
I can hear the diner react to his outburst. Suddenly it doesn't seem that smart to have left Aisha at the apartment.
"That thing, your anger just became a part of you. I asked you to stop and you just gave in. And now I am just supposed to believe that everything is okay again?"
"Steve can" Andrew says
"Steve wasn't there that night" Matt yells.
"I didn't do that on purpose" Andrew says. For the first time he raises his voice slightly.
"I don't trust you, Andrew" Matt says.
There it is. Suddenly there is nothing left to say. We finish our coffee in silence and head back.
Aisha and I are heading to the library the next afternoon. Matt had left earlier saying he needed to ditch the car and Andrew was catching up on videos on youtube.
"Are you going to tell me about last night? It's sweet that you left so you wouldn't wake me but you all…" Aisha starts
"Think and feel really loudly?" I smile.
She is silent for a beat which is odd. Then she clears her throat and I can tell she is trying to sound normal. I fight back the frustration at not being able to read her expression.
"Yeah. Matt's right you know- Andrew is trying but you should be careful" She trails off.
"What was that? That pause just then?" I ask her.
"I was just. I just noticed you have a really nice smile. So.." She finishes really awkwardly which, of course, makes me smile even wider. Smirk, even.
She punches my arm lightly and calls me a jerk when she notices my reaction. The moment passes.
We spend some time at the library. I'm figuring out braille. My instructor says the key is to practice and I agree with him, mostly because I do not want to continue to be a 19 year old who can't read. I am in the middle of trying to remember what our English teacher told us about the significance of the eyes in the Great Gatsby when I hear Aisha approach.
"What's going on?" I ask her.
"We need to get out of here" She whispers as she approaches.
I start to gather up my things and, to her credit, she doesn't grab me or rush me but when I eventually find her elbow I can feel her rush. I try to keep up with her.
"We need to take off we need to get home fast" She explains as she leads us…..somewhere. I assume it's an alley. It smells kind of terrible. We fly and we get home much faster.
"What's going on?" Matt asks when we barge in.
"Someone is looking for Andrew I don't know if it is the police or the military but he is listed as a high priority fugitive" Aisha says breathlessly.
"Where is Andrew?" I ask.
"He didn't say where he was going but he said he would be back. He said he needed to clear his head" Matt explains. I can hear the undertone of concern in his voice.
"Wait, how do you know?" I ask.
"Ever since what happened with Matt and Andrew I've been keeping an eye out for any government stuff that could affect us" Aisha explains.
"You've been tracking the government?" Matt asks incredulous.
"I take precautions. It's nothing illegal" She pauses before adding "It's nothing illegal that could be traced to us."
"That's great. Identity theft, Hacking and grave robbing" I can tell that Matt rubs his hands across his face.
He approaches me and grabs my arm to pull me aside. I hate that. My body instantly stiffens.
"Look" Matt says and I can smell coffee on his breath "Things like this put us all in danger. We should go before she gets busted and brings us all down with her."
"What we need to do is find Andrew" I answer calmly. I can already tell that Aisha is trying to get in contact with him. We sit in silence waiting to figure out the next move.
"They've already got him" She says in a strangled voice.
"Where?" I ask.
"He doesn't know and it looks like they've drugged him. He's gone silent" She explains.
"We have to go get him." I voice my thoughts.
"Great. A blind guy, a girl and me against the US government. All we are going to do is get ourselves exposed and captured. You cannot see this Steve but this is crazy. She is like sitting on the couch trying to brain talk to a guy who came back from the dead looking like a monster from a 60s movie. It is nuts" Matt warns.
"It's Andrew" I say calmly. He's right it's a suicide mission and I am not sure how we are going to do it but I have to try.
"It is Andrew. Andrew the 'apex predator'. They are still rebuilding the hospital that he took out. People died that day. He's the reason you can't see. Have you ever thought of that?"
"We risk exposure anyway. Andrew knows Steve is alive, He knows you are in the States and he knows about me. They'll have access to his DNA and God knows what they'll do to him or ask him. We have to go" Aisha confirms.
Her pragmatic reasoning upsets me at first but I realize that she is trying a different tact to convince Matt.
"I'll just get out of here before they can find me. Steve, you should come with me. It isn't safe here anymore" He says earnestly leaning into me.
"I can't leave Andrew and besides, a blind guy would probably just slow you down" I say bitterly.
"Anyone who could have seen anything?" I ask hopefully even though I can tell that this place is completely deserted. Andrew still wasn't there and we were to jittery to sit in the flat. The tension between Matt and I was palpable. So we came to where Andrew was when he was picked up.
"No. He must have been landing. He picked somewhere with nobody around" Her voice seems further away.
"What are you doing?" I ask.
"I'm just checking to see if he dropped something. I don't know. Like a clue?" She finishes desperately.
I stand silently for a while to let her look around. I hear her disappointed sigh. Another dead end.
"They were probably tracking him" I say as we sit on the grass. Her head is against my shoulder and we are just sitting there. Neither of us particularly wants to go home. I try to ignore the tightening in my chest every time she shifts slightly and I catch a whiff of her perfume.
"That makes sense. It also means they know where we are. Maybe Matt is right?"
"You want to split up?" I ask.
"No way" I'm pleased she answered so quickly and sounded so certain "Maybe there's nothing we can do to save Andrew. Maybe we get out of here and save ourselves?" She suggests.
"I don't know what to do. I hate feeling so powerless" I sigh.
Aisha turns and puts her arms around me. She hugs me for a long time and my body warms under hers.
"You are so far from being powerless. You still don't get it do you?" She asks with wonder in her voice.
I am slightly distracted by how her breasts feel pushed into my chest so I just grunt. I childishly want to reach out and grab her when she pulls away. She puts her arms on my shoulders to get my attention.
"You are the link between all of us. Before we met I couldn't feel anyone else but now I can just tell that there are so many of us out there. I can feel them. Because of you. You are stronger than all of us. Maybe it's time to stop being scared of that?" She says sincerely.
"What and become the new apex predator?" I ask jokingly.
"We are already what we are" She says.
"What does that mean?"
"This thing changed our ability but it didn't change us. Andrew was a hurt, angry and dangerous kid before all this happened. His dad was an abusive shit and his son paid the price. You aren't Andrew. Can I try something with you?"
"Sure" I agree trying to take in all the things she said.
She tugs at my arm to get me to stand up. She leads me to a spot a few paces from where we were sitting.
"Where are you going?" I ask as she starts to walk away.
"You'll see" I can hear the smile in her voice.
So I wait. I never used to be this patient but I am trying to get used to the fact that sometimes it will take slightly longer for me to figure things out.
"Okay, clear your mind" Aisha shouts from a distance. I can tell that she is standing directly in front of me.
This part is not easy especially since I am hoping that whatever she is doing it ends with us having sex. Focus pervert I warn myself. I take a deep breath.
"Hey" her voice is as clear as if she was standing right next to me. It is incredibly intimate and not something we use very much.
"Okay" She instructs "Now you know how I feel. This time you come to me."
I know what she means but I have never initiated the connection before. Just like when I figured out how to fly you just kind of have to know you can do it and figure it out instinctively from there. It takes a few tries but I make the link.
"Hey" I greet her. I feel her joy. It makes me smile.
"Okay now that we are linked just tune into what I am seeing"
This takes a bit longer but when I figure it out it's like a TV being turned on suddenly in a pitch black room. The explosion of colour nearly knocks me off my feet. So weird. I am looking at myself standing across the field.
"It took me ages to be able to do that. Amazing" She compliments me "But this isn't what I want to try"
She hurls a stick at my face. The only way to describe what it was like is to slow it down. First I felt her intention. Then I reacted by putting a barrier around my body. Then I watched the stick speed toward my body from Aisha's perspective. Then, because this whole thing was even more strange, difficult and overwhelming than coming back to life,the connection is broken just as suddenly as it was formed.
The darkness is so complete after seeing I can't breath after a second I can tune into Aisha's words.
"Shit. Steve? Steve?" She is rubbing my shoulder lightly.
"You threw a stick at me" I note petulantly.
I bend over and grope around looking for my cane before remembering it is in my back pocket.
"I saw you throw it" My voice breaks. I shake my head annoyed at myself.
"Take it easy" She says gently. Her hands cup the sides of my face gently.
"How did you know I could do that?" I ask.
"I just did. Matt is far too closed off and Andrew is strong but consumed by himself. I just knew" She says with absolute confidence.
I have never been a shy guy so when an amazing woman is standing this close to me I just have to go for it. I touch the side of her face; just to be sure of placement and then I kiss her. She kisses back. We break apart after a while.
"That was.." She starts before trailing off.
"Awesome?" I suggest cockily.
"Yeah" She smiles "and unexpected." She takes my hand, "Maybe we should just stick a pin in this for a little while. Until we figure out how to get Andrew back and whether the government is after us."
I pull her in for another kiss. I can feel the way her skin flushes and her whole body responds to mine.
"Okay" I agree easily.
We head back to the apartment in silence. Matt is there but he isn't speaking to anyone. Aisha and I have dinner and both head off to bed. We hug before we go into our separate rooms. She initiates it and we linger far longer than is appropriate.
It's 5 am when Andrew wakes up. Aisha rushes into my room.
"He won't tell me where he is. I think he's trying to protect us. You'd better talk to him" She says in a rush.
"Why don't you just go into his head and yank it out?" I ask yawning.
"Because I watched you have an Andrew induced seizure and it didn't seem that fun. I'll cover you"
It makes sense but that doesn't make me excited about the prospect of convincing Andrew to listen.
A part of me wants to wait a little before talking to Andrew so I can get some sleep but I have no idea what they are doing to him.
"Leave me alone, man" He says.
"We're coming to get you" I insist
"I'm not worth it. You've done too much already"
"Shut up and tell me where you are"
But he is tired and in pain and his defences are down. Now that I am in I can look around.
"I know where he is" I say to Aisha "And I know how we can get him"
I have just finished telling Aisha my plan. She sighs and leans back. I take her hand and squeeze. She squeezes back.
"What do you think?" I ask.
"It's pretty crazy, Steve."
Now that I am some sort of weird proto post dead telekinetic human thing you would think I would be able to concentrate fully on this life and death conversation. Instead I am thinking about her smell and how I can pick up a hint of her lotion underneath and how soft her hand is in mine. I start to rub her thumb with mine.
"We could die. They could capture us. We could wind up wherever Andrew is. And if by some infinitesimally small chance we survive and we succeed what will we do next? We'll have exposed ourselves. Where would we live? What would we do?"
"I have no right to ask you. I hate that I can't do this on my own" I sigh.
She rubs my back comfortingly and rests her head on my shoulder.
"Of course you do. You have every right and I'm going to do it. I'm just scared." She admits.
I hold her and I don't tell her that I am too.