It’s been seven hours since the new year started and one by one, the group fell asleep, returning the night to its rightful silence. Chris was left alone in the darkness of the living-room. He overlooked the room then stood up. As he closed the door behind him, a noise irrupted. Karen stepped out of the bathroom, waking Mike Banner up.
‘Sorry.’ she whispered. She paused and scanned the couch. ‘Where is he?’ Mike pointed at the door. She followed his finger and stared for a moment. ‘Does he always leave like that?’
‘He usually doesn’t stay this long.’ He mumbled as he straightened up.
‘Why does he… do that?’
Mike had a smile. Few years back, shortly after they met, the group has raised the same questions she’s presenting. For the longest time, John refused to explain anything to them, keeping them to a certain distance. But on one evening where Chris granted them of his presence for more than ten minutes, Mike began to rant on him, unable to tolerate his behaviour anymore. When James and Malcolm slowly showed their agreement with Mike, John felt the need to intervene. Once he told his story, Mike understood the character. All of them did: Chris developped a wrong way of viewing the world. A selfish way… The following days, Mike decided to correct his point of view. His strategy was to compel Chris to spend time with him once a day. At first, the task was uneasy: Mike struggled to find excuses for them to meet, raising suspicions amongst the rest of the group. But as time went by, they saw his intentions and followed his initiation. Slowly and without him noticing it, a bond was forged between them and Chris. At leat, that’s what Mike thought until the latter disappeared for a month. Their actions weren’t in vain, for all that. After many failed attempts of reconnecting, Chris naturally went to them. Mike gave a faint smile when he saw him walk through the coffee shop’s door. One small step for mankind, but one giant leap for Chris.
‘You’ll have to ask him yourself.’ he said knowing it wasn’t his to answer.
Karen hesitated then grabbed her jacket and stormed outside. She scanned the street before getting a glimpse of his silhouette in between trees. She ran and caught up with him.
‘Hé!’ He turned around. ‘You’re ok?’ He looked beyond her then laid eyes on her again. ‘Can i ask you a question?’ She paused. ‘Besides this one… Why is everyone so secretive and protective of you?’ He glanced beyond her again.
‘I don’t know.’ he replied as he stared at her. When the discomfort emerged, Chris looked away and left. She followed suit. ‘Why are you following me?’
‘I’m not following you. I’m just walking with you.’ They stayed in silence for a moment, then she finally asked: ‘Who was that guy, the other day?’ She could notice him taking a deep breathe. Too straightforward.
‘Not today.’ He said. ‘Another time, maybe.’
They walked aimlessly through Toya City until the sun broke through the horizon. They retraced their steps to Sarah’s appartment where Chris left Karen alone before disappearing in the light of day.
Two nights later, a loud tone awakened Karen: a message just came in. She stared at the screen for five minutes, trying to make sense of the blankness of the text. She tried to arrange her thoughts, when a single knock on the door suddenly pulled her out of hypnagogia. When she opened the door, she found him, standing in the darkness of the hallway, his hands in his pockets and a hoodie on his head.
‘Up for a walk?’ Chris asked in a low voice. She glanced at her phone. 5:04 am. ‘Sorry.’ he said in a breathe as he turned his back.
‘Wait!’ she whispered as she grabbed his arm. ‘Let me change.’
Thus began a strange routine: few nights a week, she found herself wandering in each corner of the city, covering any and every subject that came in her mind. She learned more about Chris as he learned more about her. The wall he built extended to her, allowing her to be in his world. At each sunrise, it felt more natural to talk to him.
‘So, what happened the other day?’ she dared to finally ask.
Chris abruptly stopped his step, looked at Karen and entered in the building next to them. She followed him to the roof where he placed two chairs facing a jungle of concrete. She sat next in one of the chairs, intrigued in knowing how Chris knew they were here.
A silence settled. Karen just missed her chance of knowing a part of his truth. A sigh slipped.
‘It was Cal Garner’s henchman. He was following you.’ Chris glanced at Karen’s reaction: she gave him an interrogative look. ‘He saw you following me.’ Karen remained suspsicious, repeating the name over and over again in her mind.
‘Garner… Why does it sound familiar?’ she mumbled.
For few seconds, the cold air warmed up, particules of dirt elevated and time seemed to have slowed down. Karen’s eyes widened up. Startled, she stood up, knocked her chair off and stepped back. Fear and confusion surfaced as thoughts raced in her mind. Several questions needed to be answered but she knew only one could explain everything.
‘What’s your name?’
Chris slowly stood up and faced her.
‘Turner.’ he said as he made a step toward her, his eyes locked on hers. Karen’s heart skipped a beat. She stayed motionless and voiceless for a second before runninf off.
Chris stared at the door. He closed his eyes, took a deep breathe and tightened his fist to contain the slight discomfort appearing in his chest. Fuck.
To be continued