"But grief makes a monster out of us sometimes . . . and sometimes you say and do things to the people you love that you can't forgive yourself for."
― Melina Marchetta
Now there are two streams. My biggest worry is to keep them from converging. To keep them both moving ahead, blind to the each other. I've begun Luke's thread—he knows the truth and he seems to believe it. He's confused and frightened but I expected nothing less. I have only one goal for the rest of the day; to begin Layton's thread.
It's irony. One stream is truth, the other deceit.
But there isn't time for musing. After I've settled Luke at the facility and barred him away, I head back out into the morning. The day has begun for the denizens of future London, including Layton. I assure myself it won't be hard to locate him.
The attention is peculiar.
"We'll get him back. If anything were to happen to him, I'm sure something would happen to me as well. Luke must be fine."
"Yes, he can be very resourceful. I'm not too concerned." But Layton has a deep, pensive look. There is something he's worried about. He stops for a moment, and lays his hand on my shoulder. My stomach lurches. I haven't been touched by another human being in at least a month's time—since my last stay at the clock shop and Cogg's last endearing pat on the back. I can't decide if I appreciate it, or if I'm detested.
"I know we aren't on the best of terms in the future, but you don't think I would put Luke in any danger now, do you?"
"No," I say without thinking. I then rush to rationalise. There wouldn't be a point to making him worry unnecessarily. His determination would work against me, in fact. Things need to unfold at the pace I've set. "Estrangement is one thing, but intention to harm—I don't believe you capable of it, even to this day."
He nods, understanding, and fronts an uneasy smile. We begin on our way again. The air is awkward now, both of us racing our thoughts. I can feel the distrust as if it were the London fog. I need something to prove I'm Luke, to convince him this is true danger. Hershel Layton is incredibly intelligent, but shares the fault we all do; he is as human as I am. I pull upon the research I've done, the research I once figured to be a waste of time, and formulate my story.
"I'm sorry, Professor, but... I have to ask." I steel myself with a sadness that is all too real. "Flora... i-is she still with us?"
He clearly receives the implication. He stops, turns. There is a sadness in his eyes that nearly makes me regret the lie, but it's not as though I have the choice of taking it back. "No... Luke, it can't be true..."
I turn away, genuinely guilty. "It was an accident... it only made you more determined, you felt as though it was solely your fault. I wish there was something I could have done then, instead of waiting until things had become so bad, Professor—"
He lays his arm across my shoulders. It startles me but I try not to let it show. As I stare into the pavement I begin to fathom how wrong the simple act of affection feels—as though it's stolen.
When had attention been what I thought I needed? How long ago?
Then I find myself drawn into an embrace, of all things, and I nearly fall to pieces. He smells exactly as he did those years ago—of clean, nameless spices, the warmth of home. I'm transported back to that moment, the moment I lost any true hope for a future. The moment I had no one but him. "Sometimes... I feel as though I should leave you to your devices, if not offer my assistance. To bring her back..." the words feel right this time. I feel desperation for a girl I've never met, I feel a desire to work with Layton, side by side, on a common goal.
I should have been Luke. I believe this has been my place all along.
The rest of the day is nerve-wracking for me. I can't seem to find a moment of peace. Though I have put methods in place to keep Luke away from the whole of the staff, there is a fair chance that something could go wrong and because I haven't had the time to fully explain what's going on or why he's there, I am uncomfortable.
Still, Layton and I attempt to get things done. We manage a trip into Chinatown to glean information from the locals. Over lunch we decide Luke is being held in the Pagoda—most likely as bait—and I agree to attempt a reconnaissance mission inside as soon as I have the chance. From there we will formulate our plan to rescue him.
I inform him that I might take a few days. The time has to be right. He informs me that tomorrow he plans on taking a quick trip into the past—his time. I have a feeling he wants to check on the girl.
We part ways in early afternoon following small talk and trivialities—something I've never cared much for. But today they hang with me. After commenting on how strange it was without Luke—the Luke he was used to, at least—he had thanked me for my time.
The nostalgia was brutal, burrowing itself deep into my chest.
"It's been a long time," I had replied. "Seeing you again has been a pleasure."
As much as I hadn't wanted to believe it, by the time I reached the facility I realised I'd told the truth.
I go back to tell Luke he can't leave the facility for his own safety, insisting that if they were bold enough to take him once, they would do it again. I've also told Dimitri he is there, and will be for a while. It is imperative they stay apart for the fear Luke might recognise him.
And as evening sets in I find myself alone. Not only physically alone, but I feel alone. It's been so long since I've had to deal with so much social interaction. I have no energy left to fight today.
I change, stroll the halls, open all the windows. It's getting dark. For a moment I long to see stars—to see the true sky—but I can't bring myself to think of leaving the house again. It isn't worth it. The greys and blues of replicated cloud cover mock me for my weakness. I mock myself. The fans circulating air begin to shut down, the chugging getting steadily slower.
I'll go to the casino. I'll speak with Mark and watch the nightlife unfold from the safety of shadows. I'll feel superior, in control, above this trite emotion.
I can't bring myself to talk to another living soul today. Instead I decide to shower, hoping it will help relax me and ease some tension. But it only makes things worse so I dress again and move like a ghost toward an unrecognised thought. I go to the attic.
The shoulders of my shirt are soaked from my wet hair. Drips roll down my neck.
I've purposefully avoided the second floor since taking up residence here. They say that things out of sight remain out of mind. This symbolises the part of my memory I've disallowed myself access to. But I'm here now, being drawn to the steamer trunk tucked back against the picture window that frames a city full of deceit.
I have no strength left to fight against myself today.
I crouch and lean my back against the window. I don't want to see the rest of the world. My shadow is long and dips into the cracks of the unfinished wood floor. Everything is covered in dust but I don't bother wiping it away. I secure a hold on the chest and pull it toward me, then I lift the lid.
A distinct smell hits me. Choking lavender, childhood, summer, loud voices carrying up to my bedroom, all held together with an undertone of alcohol that stings my nostrils. Mrs. Dove's favourite perfume.
Why have I done this to myself?
In addition to the glass flask of perfume, I remember what I've kept. A single baby picture that was recovered. Mrs. Dove had been under the impression it was myself, but it's more likely to be of Luke now that I consider. There is no date. The only other object floundering in this coffin is a notebook I kept as a child.
I don't dare touch anything, I'm too afraid it will awaken a ghost.
"Do you see?" I stand, close my eyes and pull my sleeve up over my fist. Then I cover my mouth and nose and kick the trunk. It slams shut as I cry out, an anger reignited in me. But I'm crying. My sleeve distributes a glaze of tears over my cheeks.
I figured a longer chapter was in order, as well as a glimpse of the Clive that's hurting so badly. Poor kid. He needs a hug. Anyway, I would really like to thank The Mocking J for suggesting something that you will soon see in upcoming chapters. And, of course, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this story!