"Please Matthew understand I am not trying to make you worry." Criss listened to him plead with her. "No I have to stay. The only way I am going to make any difference in this war is if I am in the heart of it. I want my car though so I will find a place and then I will call you and fly home so I can drive back."
"I will drive your car to you." He said after a moment of silence. "That would make me feel better."
She sighed. "Okay. But let Mandy pack for me. I actually want clothes that I will wear not the stuff you want me to wear."
Matthew laughed softly. "It will take me a couple of days to get there. Will you stay at the hotel until I do?"
"So you can pick where I live?" Now she laughed. "I don't know. I will be out for part of the day. If you call don't freak if I don't answer." She spoke to him for a few more minutes and then hung up.
The clothing that the hotel owner had felt was appropriate was more like what a girl would wear if she were freezing in the dead of winter; a high necked long sleeve shirt that had no cut lines and no style at all, then a pair of expensive slacks. The slacks and shirt fit but looked horrible. She left the hotel and headed for a mall that had not been closed down by the economic downturn. She bought some cut off denim shorts, and a new pair of jeans, tank tops and then underwear and changed into a new outfit leaving the horrible clothes to be found in the ladies room at the mall. After spending a few hours shopping and buying more clothing and shoes she called a cab and had it take her back to the hotel. The only item she kept to remember the experience was the sun glasses that she had used during her escape. The glasses rested now on the top of her head as she strolled into the lobby of the hotel as though she owned it. The hotel offered a number of services including a salon. She made a u-turn into the salon and within moments was having her hair washed, conditioned, trimmed and styled. She left a large tip and went to her room.
Armed with a new bathing suite, a map of the city, a fashion magazine and a towel she headed for the pool. It was the first time she had worm a one piece suite but she had to cover the bandage and avoid any questions. It was hard enough to hide the bruise on her cheek and the split lip. She ordered a soda at the pool and some fresh fruit and then put on her glasses to read through the map. She spent several hours learning the names of the streets and the area around The Club hoping that she could find a place that was near the place and near a gym. Even though she would not be competing again, continuing to practice kept her sane.
She took two days walking the area, searching for a gym and somewhere she could learn how to fight. She hated the feeling of helplessness that she felt while being beaten on the mother ship. Before she could do anything for the resistance she would have to learn how to protect herself, then she could help. Helping the resistance was the only way she could think of to get close enough to kill Diana. Criss stopped on the sidewalk. Her thoughts had rolled to revenge again, distracting her and she missed the building she was looking for. She looked up at the building and read the address and then walked back a little and looked up. The apartment for rent was above a closed down clothing store. The woman she had spoken to was going to meet her at noon. The apartment was perfect for her, close enough to walk to both a gymnastics studio and the Club. She wanted to rent the place and sign a contract before Matthew showed up with her car. She was worried that he would insist on picking out the place.
Her cell phone rang and she dug it out of her back pack and smiled, think of the devil. "Hi Matthew."
"I am at the hotel. Where are you?" His voice sounded tired and impatient.
"I am looking at an apartment." She read him the address and he agreed to meet her.
The woman who owned the building was very happy to see Christien and happier when Criss didn't question the rent or the area. Criss walked around the apartment, a large open space with small separate bedroom and bathroom. The floors were hard wood and the walls had been recently painted, it was clean. Matthew appeared only a few minutes after Criss had made her decision. He looked around the place and then spoke quietly with the woman for a few moments. He stepped up behind Criss while she was looking out the window. "So is this the place?" He asked. The window faced the Mother ship.
"I figured you would tell me." She glanced at him and tried to smile to soften her words.
Matthew shrugged. It had been over a year since the death of her parents. "You are as grown up as you need to be to rent a place like this." Matthew looked around the apartment and then back at Christien. "I love you. To keep you safe I would like to rent the place in my name, make sure all of the bills are handled you know."
Criss laughed and leaned her head against Matthew's shoulder. "I don't want your name associated with mine in any way."
"You are really going join the Los Angeles resistance?"
Criss looked over her shoulder at the woman who was busy on her phone checking references. "Yes. Though I don't want you to get too worried it will be a while before they trust me enough to help. Now I promise to check in as often as possible and I will carry my phone."
"Cell phones," Matthew shook his head "just like this new internet we didn't even have them three years ago and now you act as though the cellular phone is your life. You do know it costs for every minute you spend on that." He put an arm around her shoulder and pulled to him. "I will keep money in the account under your name. You can use the ATM card as you need and the credit card I sent."
She nodded. "So you did bring my car right?"
He laughed; her car was a tiny red convertible mercury. The car had been a gift from her father the day she had passed Driver's Ed. She couldn't even drive at night when he gave her the car. He squeezed her again. "Yes and I am loathed to say that I enjoyed driving it here."
"I won't tell anyone that a big business guy like you enjoyed my little red car."
Matthew watched as Christien signed her lease and listened carefully to her landlord's rent requirements, pleased when she asked all the right questions and when she made sure to question when the locks had been changed and who else may have keys. She asked if she could have the locks changed and add security locks to the windows. They said good bye to the woman and Criss handed Matthew the second set of keys. "I took a cab to get here." Matthew said when they were standing on the sidewalk outside of the building. "So use that fancy cell phone of yours to call one for us and I will take you out to a nice dinner."
Criss shook her head and looked up at him. "I think after loosing K.C. and the week I have had that we need to have a quiet dinner at the hotel."
Matthew lifted her chin and looked at the bruise that surrounded her eye and the one on her lip. "I want you to tell me." He turned her head from one side to the other and then let out a small sigh.
He nodded. "I want you to know that K.C.'s death was not your fault."
She smiled and pulled away. "I know that doesn't make it hurt any less." She pulled the phone out of her purse it was as big as her hand but smaller than any phone he had ever had, even the phone he had installed in his car was bigger than the one she was holding. She pushed in the number for a local cab company and ordered a cab to their location and then hung up. "Ten minutes." She looked around her and then back to Matthew. "So what is the real reason you didn't argue about the apartment?"
"I know the area. You are in the heart of the Open City. You know that Matcliff has an office only two blocks away and that there will be a security agent on staff at all times who will be able to let you in." He looked around for a second. "There are places to eat and stores nearby. You will have to drive a bit to buy groceries." He nodded again. "I am sure you know that there is a gym only a few buildings down."
She smiled and nodded. "I have and interview for private practice time on Monday."
He shrugged. "Your parents raised smart kids."
She bumped his shoulder again. "You helped." Then she laughed. "Make sure you brag to Mandy that I am only a few minutes from a beach."
"It's farther then you think." He said and laughed.
"Well I am closer then she is." She pouted.
"Don't pout it is unbecoming of a lady." He looked her over and then shook his head. "I knew that I should have picked out your clothes. What are you wearing? Those shorts have holes in them and that shirt. I can't believe that nice woman rented that apartment to a hoodlum like you."
Criss rolled her eyes. "These shorts were a hundred bucks." She smiled when his face crumpled up at the price. "Don't worry I won't shop very often and the lady rented the apartment because you showed up." The cab pulled up and Criss started to open the back door. "Did you just call me a hoodlum?"
"Hey I am not the one who spent a hundred bucks on ripped denim jeans." He followed her into the taxi.
Matthew stayed in LA, working most of the time at the local office, for three more days. Criss dropped him at LAX, her gut twisted as she walked through the airport with him. He gave her more instructions and advice about living alone. Suggesting that she apply to college or look for a job something to keep her mind occupied. She left him at the security checkpoint. The airport was full of red clad visitors and she didn't want to go through security or have anyone look too closely at her.
"Be safe." Matthew hugged her tightly.
"I will." She promised.
"Mandy is going to fly over to spend your birthday with you. I will come if I can." He smiled and brushed her blond hair off her face. "Don't do anything that will put you in unnecessary danger."
"You too. Remember do whatever they want." She told him. He finally let go of her and she took a step back. "I am going to be fine." She promised.
"You are going to make me cry." He touched her cheek again, nodded once and then turned and went through the first class security line.