Authors: Avery Kirk
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Copyright © (2016) Avery Kirk
All rights reserved
Cover design: Avery Kirk
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Someone was shaking me. Submerged in sleep and very involved in a dream, I needed a few seconds to figure out what was happening. In my dream, my mother, who had been dead for a few years, was talking to me. The dream was very real. My mother had appeared in several dreams I’d had in the last few months. She’d just told me I was going to lose someone close to me, but she hadn’t yet said who that was. So I didn’t want to wake up—not yet.
Pulling myself from my dream seemed to take a great effort. I felt as though I had to travel through a tunnel to find my way to the person trying to wake me. I could barely hear his words.
It was Kevin. “Mel, c’mon. Please, Mel. Wake up.” His words were laced with anxiety, and I felt a shot of worry pass through me. Once I mentally sort of arrived in the wake state and realized he needed me, I sat up. My head still wasn’t clear, and I felt almost dizzy.
“What’s going on?” I asked, staring at him. I rubbed my eyes, trying to focus. I remembered—we were in a hotel room in California. I swung my legs around and put my toes on the carpeted floor.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” he said in a low voice as he set my shoes next to my feet. The room was still dark.
“Please just trust me.” He sounded desperate and the words rushed out of him.
“OK. Let me get dressed.”
“Let’s skip that for now, Mel. Just keep on what you’re wearing. You’re fine.”
“Can you tell me what’s happening? I have to get my stuff together. What time is it?” I was still groggy.
“It’s 3 a.m. I promise I’ll tell you everything in like 10 minutes. Please, Mel. Just get your shoes on. I already packed all your stuff.”
At that point, I was wide awake, and my heart started beating faster. What was going on? I saw my gramma’s yellow suitcase that I’d brought over by the door with Kevin’s black duffel bag just next to it, waiting for us.
“OK. OK.” I slipped on my shoes and took Kevin’s outstretched hand to stand up. I hated the feeling of not knowing what was happening, but I trusted him completely. I just wasn’t sure I could process yet another emergency—or whatever this was.
Kevin opened the hotel room door the way I might open a bank vault door if I were robbing it. He kept his hand on the door and opened it silently. My heart began to race faster yet. I’d never seen him act like this before. He quietly hoisted the duffel bag over his shoulder, but stopped and stared at the yellow bag. Then he took off his gray, zippered sweatshirt and draped it over the yellow bag. He grabbed the handle through the sweatshirt.
Leaning in close to me, he whispered, “Just move slowly and quietly. Let’s try to get to the car without anyone seeing.” I nodded, although I desperately wanted to understand why we were doing this. Then my heart sank. Were we running from the guy I’d fought two nights before? Had he found us? I thought I’d scared him enough that he wouldn’t come looking. But I tried to dismiss the thought since he had known nothing about us at all. Not even my name. Kevin turned and closed the door silently.
We stood in the well-lit hallway, which had stucco-style sconces every 12 feet or so and a tacky teal and coral Southwest wallpaper border just below the ceiling. Kevin glanced around hastily. He appeared to be unsure which way to go. The elevators seemed to me like a bad idea for trying to stay out of sight, but the doorway to the stairs were a hundred or so feet away. I only held my purse and Kevin had the two bags. I slung my purse across my body to keep my hands free.
Kevin decided on the stairs and we walked toward them fast without a sound. He opened the door, and it let out a groaning creak causing us both to startle. I slipped through the door as he held it open and walked on my toes down the metal stairs, the tin sound with my every step muffled and low. Kevin slowly closed the door and glide-stepped down the staircase behind me. Four flights down to the ground level, and he stepped in front of me again, and slow as can be opened the door to exit the stairs.
After he looked left and right out the door for what seemed like way too long, I started to wonder if he was simply being paranoid. I tapped his hand and took my bag from him so he could move a little more easily. He opened the door and walked toward the rear exit of the hotel, where he stepped outside.
The fresh air felt like freedom at last. We looked around and I realized that we were a long way from our rental car. The stairs had taken us to the back of the building and we had parked in the front.
Kevin and I edged our way between the hotel buildings, first on the sidewalk but then walking into the landscaping, stepping carefully as if landmines were possible. If I hadn’t been so worried, I would’ve felt foolish for this. What the heck was happening?
Kevin froze and put a stiff arm across my stomach, pressing me up against the building. Twigs crunched below my feet. I turned my eyes to where he seemed to be looking and I saw flashlights bouncing. I glanced at Kevin again, and he appeared to be beside himself. I felt desperate to end this. Why not just bolt for the car? Or
even. Just then the hotel’s front door opened and closed. I jumped hard—so did Kevin—but this time he didn’t push me against the wall. When he noticed that the man who had just come out was walking toward us, he grabbed my arm and tugged.
“We’re parked just over here,” Kevin said, louder than I was expecting. The ground crunched under our feet as we rushed back onto the sidewalk.
Kevin looked at the man. “Oh, good morning. Know any good breakfast places this early?”
The man appeared startled to hear Kevin’s voice. “No, I’m not from around here. And I’m not much of a breakfast guy, myself.”
“OK, that’s OK—have a good one,” Kevin replied. The stress in his face was clear to me, despite the darkness.
After speaking to the man, we were only about 15 steps from the car. Kevin unlocked it and tossed the bags inside. I got in and looked out my window. The flashlights were still bouncing down the sidewalk toward the other end of the hotel parking lot. Kevin backed the car out aggressively, and the man who had just come from inside was just behind us in his car, also pulling out of the lot.
“He’s following us,” I told Kevin, suddenly alarmed.
“I’m not worried about him.”
We drove a few blocks east, and the man behind us made a right turn. I felt myself relax a bit. I wanted to ask what was happening, but Kevin’s hands were so tense on the steering wheel that I decided to wait. He looked as though he might want to tear the steering wheel right off the car.
Not until we drove by some fields about 10 minutes later did I decide to ask.
“Kev? Can you tell me now?” I asked him.
“Tell you what?” he responded.
“What do you mean ‘what’? Tell me what this was all about?”
He pulled over, his movements a little more deliberate than usual. He seemed to still be upset. “I’m sorry. I just had a terrible feeling. I couldn’t shake it.”
“Seriously?” I didn’t mean to give him attitude—I really didn’t—but I was just sincerely surprised that was the issue. A feeling.
“Yeah, it sounds silly, but that’s what it was. Please just trust me. I’m not explaining it well. We
to get out of there.” He shook his head, and I felt sorry for giving him crap. Thinking back to what I’d put him through just a couple of days earlier and how he’d taken care of me, I had absolutely no right to question his reasons for wanting to leave.
“I’m sorry,” I said. I really did feel sorry.
“It’s OK. It was probably very strange to have someone wake you up like that in the middle of the night. And I didn’t even tell you anything.” He shook his head at himself. “I was just so sure,” he said, mostly to himself.
“It’s fine. We’re out. Are you feeling all right now?”
“Yes. Totally fine now.”
“OK, what do you want to do? We’re about…” I looked at the clock on the radio. “…seven hours early for our flight back to Detroit.”
“Let’s drive closer to the airport and figure it out.”
We drove for about an hour. Behind the airport, near the runways, we found an abandoned building with an overgrown, weedy parking lot that had a perfect view of incoming planes. It seemed like a pretty cool place to hang out for a while. The building was a small, red brick structure with tall windows all along the front. Knee-high weeds were growing through the cracks in the concrete and all around the building.
We parked the car, got out, climbed on the hood and sat down. Then we leaned back on the windshield and stretched our legs, watching the planes come in. I looked over at Kevin. He’d already fallen asleep. Still in his jersey pajama pants and white t-shirt, he slept hard with a scowl on his face and his arms crossed over his chest.
I decided that I would stay up and keep watch, just so he could sleep without worry. I got off the car hood carefully and quietly so I wouldn’t wake him up.
I explored the overgrown parking lot and peeked in the windows of the building, using my phone as a flashlight. I didn’t see much, just some old empty desks and assorted trash. I looked down at my phone and noticed a text from a number I didn’t recognize. It read, ‘you there?’ Although the text had come in the day before, I sent a quick response. ‘Who is this?’
Within a minute, an answer came back. ‘Dave. Next door.’ I smiled and double checked the time. It was a little after 7 a.m. for my buddy Dave who had Down Syndrome. I wrote, ‘Why are you up?’ He responded, ‘Call me.’ I picked up the phone and dialed.
“Hi, Melia,” Dave said just after the first ring.
“Hey, Dave, why are you up?”
“This medicine makes it hard to sleep. Where are you?”
“In California, just waiting for our plane.” I edited the story for Dave though I felt a small pang of guilt for making the story vague. I usually tried not to do that when I talked to him.
“You went to California with Kevin?”
“Is he your man?” I heard Dave starting to chew on something crunchy.
I laughed and looked over at the sleeping Kevin.
“No, Dave. Kevin is just my very good friend.”
“I didn’t see your text until just now. Did you need something?”
“No, just testing my phone.”
“OK, great. How are you feeling?” Dave had been struggling to get past some respiratory issues since he had nearly drowned in an accident after taking his parents’ boat out.
I remembered just then: In my dream, my mother told me I was going to lose someone close to me. Suddenly, how Dave was feeling was massively important.
, Melia. Back at my house now.”
, Dave.” I meant it. I said it a little too loudly and looked over at Kevin again—who hadn’t moved.
“OK, Melia. Maybe we can play cards tomorrow or something?”
“For sure we can.” I smiled.
I programmed Dave’s number immediately afterward. Then I clicked on the history and saw that I’d had another call from Dave. But I didn’t remember talking to him. The call was a missed one from a date that I’d never forget, the day that I’d pulled Dave out of the water—the date of the boating accident. My stomach dropped.
I replayed that day in my head and realized that the time of the incoming call was from
we knew that he was on the boat. I put my hand on my forehead, sick at the thought that I hadn’t seen the call then. I’d had no idea. I hit the phone button and called him back.
“What?” he answered.
“Sorry. Dave did you call me the day you took the boat out? Before you took it out?”
“Yeah, maybe. Why?”
“I didn’t know. I don’t know why I didn’t see it. What did you call for that day?” I was having mental fits that he had called me to ask if he
take the boat out and I could’ve prevented the whole terrible event from happening. Maybe if I’d answered that call, he wouldn’t now have any respiratory issues to get over. I crammed my fingers into my hair and held my head, waiting for his response.
“Just something small,” he said with a cough.
“But it was the day you took the boat out,” I said, desperation in my voice. “Can’t you remember? Were you asking me if you should do it?” I was losing my cool.
“Calm down, Melia. I remember now. I wasn’t sure where the dry dock was. I was trying to run the boat up to storage that day, that’s all.”
“So you were already out on the water?”
“Yeah, my phone worked from the boat too. It was way wicked. I was just out on the canal and I forgot where my mom and dad would usually take the boat. Never got it there, though. Sucks.” He coughed hard.
“OK, Dave. I just wanted to ask. I never saw your call until just now when I saved your number in my phone.”
“OK, stop freaking out,” he said.
“OK. I will.” I laughed a little, but I still felt awful.
Now that I was reminded of my mother in the dream, I was thinking of all the people who were close to me I could possibly lose. Kevin, Dave, my grampa. Maybe a couple of others.