The loft was destroyed. Thanks to renters insurance, however, Reese was able to get a number of the things she had lost and then cash for those things that were irreplaceable. As for her living situation...
...she only really knew one other person in the city. After a long and very awkward conversation, Auset finally got around to officially inviting the suddenly homeless Reese to come and stay at her apartment--at least until Reese could find another place to live. Besides which, Auset would be needing someone to keep an eye on her place for a while as she had been called on a job that required her to go to Dallas for at least a week. The usually confident hacker had been reduced to stuttering and mumbling when she decided to ask Reese to stay at her apartment, but her efforts were rewarded when a very shy writer had accepted the offer.
Reese had been moved in for a day when a package came for her, forwarded from the old loft address. It was from her mother.
A note that was tucked inside the outer wrapping read:
This is a little something I picked up on my last dig in Macedonia. Being the ancient history buff that I know you are--though you so often insist on denying it--I thought you might appreciate it. At least I hope you do, as it is very difficult and not a little bit illegal to take artifacts out of the country in which you find them. Anyway, enjoy. I'll talk to you soon!
P.S. I have the translation lying around here somewhere. I'll send it soon if you're interested."
Intrigued and very curious, Reese proceeded to fully unwrap the parcel. Auset walked in from the bathroom where she had been brushing her teeth and hovered over the smaller woman's shoulder.
"What's that?" she inquired.
"Something mom dug up in Greece," Reese replied as she removed the final bit of paper from the object. The two stared in amazed silence at the artifact Reese now held. It was an extremely old scroll, the paper browned and wrinkled, looking as though it would break into a million pieces if you touched it. At each end there were small wooden handles that allowed you to unroll the document, they themselves looking quite weather and time beaten. Being as careful as she possibly could, Reese slowly unrolled the thing a little and stared wonderingly at the faded but still legible ink. The language was classical Greek, that much she knew, and it was written in a strong and sure yet quite beautiful hand. Reese could not read classical Greek, however, and forced her curiosity back, determined to get her mother to send the translation.
"That's...amazing," Auset whispered. "Looks very old."
"Ancient Greece. And yeah," she breathed. "It is amazing. Mom says she has the translation if we...err...if I want it, which I do."
Auset just nodded and went back into the bathroom to finish up. Reese put the scroll back into the protective wrapping it had come in and then tucked it inside a small trunk of personal things she kept. It was fireproof, and had therefor been spared from the blaze.
The sun was setting behind the tall gray buildings of Chicago's skyline, casting long shadows across cracked streets and filling the atmosphere with the orange-gold brilliance of dusk. Reese peered out of a window in Auset's apartment at the city all around her as she listened to the sounds of her friend milling about in the bathroom and then the kitchen. Her whole life had done a complete one-eighty in the span of just over a week and she felt as though she should be just a little bit more disoriented. While she found herself to be terrified--witnessing murder, the arson of her home, becoming entirely too attached to this person she had just met, and generally experiencing a very stressful and bizarre period of time--she was also strangely happy. Something about just being in the presence of this woman put her at ease. Admittedly she was scared of it all, of the unknown, but there was a definite sense of peace hanging about her. As she stood there watching the city settle into another night, Reese decided that everything that had happened was something she could learn from, grow from, and move on from. No matter what came next, she would see it through to the best of her ability.
Auset looked up from trying to wrestle a frozen pizza pocket out of the freezer and saw the smaller blonde woman standing in front of a window, silently gazing out over the neighborhood. The darker glow of the setting sun was filtering in all around her figure, silhouetting it against the skyline save the glint of light on her honey-blonde hair. Auset smiled in pure reflex and shook her head, then went back to her battle with the frozen food. I have lost my mind, she thought. This is completely out of character for me and I don't understand one bit of any of it except that it just feels right. Who knows why she agreed to stay here--she must know the risk by now. I suppose it's because she has no where else to go, and that's why I invited her to stay in the first place--right? of course. She should go as soon as she finds someplace new. OK. Yeah.
The next day, before Auset had to leave, the two decided to check out the offices of Detrimus Enterprises and see if Sera was around. Auset hoped to have a little personal chat with him to see what was up--maybe knock him around a bit. They approached the front desk, where a receptionist sat reading a book.
"Excuse me, we need to see Mr. Detrimus please," Reese said in her most cordial voice possible. The receptionist looked up from her book and frowned.
"He's not here."
"When will he be in?" Auset inquired impatiently.
"Dunno. Said he'd be gone on business for an indeterminable amount of time and not to make appointments," the woman finished and went back to reading the book. Auset and Reese exchanged frustrated glances and then walked back out of the building.
"He's gone," Auset stated flatly. "Bastard."
"Maybe it's best that way. Keeps him out of the picture," Reese offered. "You can keep working on that project of yours without him getting in the way."
Auset frowned and stared at her feet. "That's not how it works with him. The fact that he left is a bad sign. We'll have to stay alert for a while."
The two walked slowly on down the sidewalk, seemingly oblivious to the other pedestrians as they strolled on in no particular direction. Reese glanced over at Auset and saw her jaw clenching and brow furrowed, signs that she was deep in thought. Reese opted to keep her own thoughts to herself and just continued on walking at her companion's side.
"I should be back in about a week. The apartment is yours until then--don't forget to water the plant."
Reese fixed her gaze on the mother and daughter who were embracing warmly at the gate that was just behind Auset. The mother had deboarded the plane to find a very excited little girl waiting to launch herself into her mom's arms. She pulled her eyes away from the scene and looked back to find very serious blue eyes pinning her own green.
"Plants. Right, got it," she assured her friend. Auset had received the call the day after Reese's loft had burned down, informing her that she was to go to Dallas and help a fledgling company to successfully merge with a larger one that had bought it out. Had she not still been under a year-long contract with this particular company, Auset might have turned the job down, seeing as it would most likely involve illegal operations. But she was obligated and therefor had to go. Reese was sad to see her new friend leave, but at the same time somewhat relieved, as the time alone would give her the opportunity to sort her life out--time to think things over.
"Good. Now, here's a set of keys. Help yourself to whatever's in the fridge," Auset stated matter-of-factly. Her outward body language was calm and composed, but inwardly she was ready to explode with nervousness and uncertainty. She was sure that by trusting Reese so much so soon, she was just asking to get stabbed in the back. It had happened every other time she had allowed herself to get attached, to trust, so why should this time be any different? Auset was also aware of the danger factor not only in leaving Reese alone in her apartment--where someone out to get the hacker might instead find Reese--but also that this job she was being sent on could very well be a set-up courtesy of Sera.
Well, too late now.
"Plane's boarding," Auset added and readjusted the strap of her bag over her shoulder. Reese shifted her weight from one leg to the other and picked nervously at her shirt.
"Be safe, OK?" the writer asked, now looking up at Auset again. The dark-haired woman grinned cheekily and placed a reassuring hand on Reese's shoulder.
"Don't worry 'bout me. You take care," she said and tipped a wink at the blonde woman before her. Reese managed a genuine smile and nodded. With one last glance back and a quick wave, Auset disappeared down the gateway that lead to her airplane.
Reese walked over to a row of uncomfortable looking plastic seats that looked out over the runway and lowered herself into one them, opting to stay and make sure Auset's plane took off all right. She noticed the mother and daughter that she had been watching before off to her left. The mother had the little girl sitting in her lap and they were talking and smiling, the daughter showing off a drawing she had apparently made. A man approached them then and swooped down to plant a kiss on the woman and then a more playful one on the little girls head. He ruffled her hair affectionately and then lifted her into his arms. The mother got up then too and the family made their way out of the terminal, all the while laughing and smiling.
Reese sighed deeply, trying to push down thoughts of her own family--so dissimilar to the scene of love and warmth she had just witnessed--and turned her attention back to Auset's plane, which was now taxiing out to the runway. The engines fired up and the huge beast raced down the runway, eventually hurtling itself into thin air, then rising higher and higher into the pure blue sky until it was just a tiny black speck that disappeared into the warm golden glow of the midday sun.
This is the end of the second (possibly final) draft, anyway. I went back and rehashed, revamped, shortened, lengthened, mutilated, made love to, spat on, and hopefully improved on the whole sordid affair. There is always the possibility that I will go back and do more editing in the future, but for now this is it.
Thank you for taking this strange and hopefully enjoyable little journey with me. I'm just happy that I've finally managed to finish a full-length story for the first time in ages. I'll tell ya what though, that whole making-an-outline thing really does work!
If you have any comments/feedback/suggestions to make at all, PLEASE feel free to send them my way. I'd be glad to know that anyone reads this and to read what you have to say about it all. Oh and, nudge-nudge-wink-wink, I'm working on a sequel.
Go raibh maith agat!
(rough draft finished on 9-17-00, final draft finished 10-10-00)
(final draft page total: 114)
Back to Story Index