previously:Untitled Raven Miller project ch2
I felt the soldier’s breath hot against my skin. His eyes looked at me with animalistic intensity. I swear he hadn’t blinked for the entire time I was telling my story.
I was in tears. “Now you know why I took the baby!”
“Adam, that’s enough!” Leo shouted from a good distance away. “We’re getting back on the road!”
I was waiting for Leo to pull him off me. Even if they were planning on putting me back in restraints, that would be easier to do without Adam’s body crushing me in the bed of the truck.
But Adam got up on his own, casually running his fingers through his dark blond hair. “I’m not going anywhere with that psycho.”
I sprang up, any fear transformed into anger. “Who’re you calling a psycho? You fucking dick!”
Adam jumped out of the truck bed landing on his feet. “There’s something really wrong with that bitch.”
“Says the fucker who tried to rape me?”
Adam shook his head with a sneer. “I wouldn’t touch you and you know it.”
“Then why did you want to know about Nate?”
Adam shook his head, like an irritated parent or teacher. “You’re a fucking temptress. I-I just need to get some air.”
Leo seemed genuinely concerned as he followed his partner for a few paces until Adam disappeared into the swamplands.
For whatever reason, I felt the need to defend myself. “I didn’t do anything to him!”
Leo sighed. “Yeah, I know.” He sighed, calmly crossing his arms. “I had a feeling this would happen.”
“Had a feeling what would happen?”
Leo turned back to the truck. “This is Adam’s first mission after death.”
“What are you saying? His soul needs to adjust to not being a total ass-hat?”
He’s not like that at all.
Being around you broke something inside him. But it’s no fault of your own.”
That’s what I just said. “Is it because we’re related?”
“You’re not that related,” he said with a chuckle. “I mean, you’re about as related as the millions of people who can trace their lineage back to Genghis Khan.”
I giggled at the joke; all the people who use the paid DNA tests to find out they are 1/100th of a percent Mongolian. “That would actually explain a lot.”
Leo cupped his hand over his mouth, stifling laughter. “Anyway, the way I see it, you remind him of his former life. He’s homesick for family, his daughter.” Leo bit his lip as a smile of realization crept across his lips. “We still have a mission to complete. So we’re taking a temporary detour.”
“A detour? What about my family?”
“Won’t take long, I promise.”
“How do I know I can trust you?”
My question seemed to make Leo smile even wider. “Well, for starters, I need you both back in the truck. Are you up for a little fun?”
“As I recall, my partner manhandled you like a bag of trash. How would you like to return the favor?”
“You’re serious?” I bit my lip to hide a smirk.
Leo cracked his knuckles summoning the shimmery silver rope that he had used to kidnap me, originally. “I think Adam needs to take a turn in the truck bed.”
Approaching Adam from behind was not as difficult as I thought it would be. The man seemed to be in a trance, looking out at the same water he had pulled me from.
Was Adam seeing the same thing I had? Since he was related to me, could he also see through my brother Bobby’s eyes? Or was he seeing his own family, maybe his own daughter? I had little time to ponder before Leo put the rope around Adam’s neck, yanking him back like disobedient livestock.
“Are you fucking kidding me? Leo answer me!” Adam cursed up a storm as Leo hogtied him with the magical rope.
Leo then handed me the end of the rope. “Do the honors, Miss Raven?”
“With pleasure.” I kicked Adam in the stomach causing him to collapse into the fetal position. “Paybacks a bitch and so am I.” I gave the rope a solid pull, which allowed me to throw his body into the truck bed with an abnormal level of strength. It was actually pretty fun.
Adam landed with a thud.
He went quiet, causing me a moment of hesitation. “You ok?”
“Fucking… bitch…” he muttered.
Considering he was already dead, that show of consciousness was good enough for me. “Have a nice nap.” I got into the passenger seat next to Leo. “So, where we headed?”
“Las Vegas, Nevada.”
“What’s in Vegas?”
“Adam’s only biological child.” Leo put the truck in reverse, pullout out towards what looked like the main road, leading back to the highway.
I turned my head to see if Adam had heard. He appeared to be asleep, that or just silently pouting. I was just jazzed to be headed to Vegas. “Does his whole family live in Vegas?”
“No, his eldest is at Uni in Colorado. We’ve visited her before, she seems pretty happy.”
“His adopted daughter?”
“Yeah, they’ve always been close. I think it’s the idea of being someone from a foreign land; she was adopted from China while Adam, well he… he never really belonged. But you know a little about that.”
“I do, I know what it’s like to walk a mile as a lone wolf.” Probably more so than a certain former soldier but I didn’t want to be disrespectful. “So why Las Vegas?”
“From what I observed, it was for the education benefits.” Leo made a signal with his hand resulting in a bright colorful glow. We drove through a technicolor tunnel, emerging into the bright Nevada sunlight.
The heat hit me almost immediately, like a hairdryer to the face. “Fuck, man. Turn on some air!” My words were not aimed at anyone in particular since even I could see that the truck did not have AC. My only condolence was that Adam would be having a much worse time, being cooked alive in the truck bed.
Leo pulled off the main road, heading towards a large, spacious gated community. “Oh look, we’re here.”
I looked around for the Las Vegas strip, it was visible a few miles away. Although I was disappointed about not getting to visit the fun part of Vegas, it was, in fact, a really beautiful view. “So, how do we get into the desert culdesac paradise?”
“Therein lies the problem. Once we’re in, I need to stay with the truck, to keep all our belongings in the spirit world. This means you will have to escort Adam into the house.”
“You could also take this as an opportunity to run, but I’d like to think you’d want to help a lost soul in need of guidance.”
“So this is like the movie, ‘Ghost’? I’m going to have to talk to a bunch of strangers, claiming that ‘Yeah, I’m a conduit for your dead relative and no, this is not a scam’? ”
“Or we can just sit in the truck for all eternity. I’m an angel, I don’t mind. But you, as a flesh and blood human; your body is going to get a little uncomfortable in the Nevada desert without food or water.”
Looking around, I knew what he intended to do. Leo could freeze us in-between time, locking us in place. I would be trapped in my own personal hell, with no chance of ever finding my partner or my daughter ever again. “Fine, where’s the house?”
“Just up ahead,” Leo drove through the gate and made a sharp turn towards a hill. “It’s the one that looks like a white-chocolate desert-themed gingerbread house.”
“It’s pretty cute.” Looking forward I could see what he meant. The house was one of the smaller ones, but it was surrounded by cactus and White Oak trees, all covered in Christmas lights. But the most notable trait was the detail work; exotic trim along the roof and entranceway that looked like whipped cream piping. “How did you know where this place was?”
Leo pulled the truck over, parking a good twenty feet away from the candy house. “I’ve been there once before.” He paused to breathe, soft and slow as if trying to meditate. “I haven’t actually spoken to any of them. But as part of my job, with training Adam and such…”
“Are you nervous?” I asked, somewhat sarcastically. He had been the picture of calm and cool for the entire trip.
“I’m nervous for Adam. If this doesn’t work, we’re kinda screwed. But don’t worry about that. You just go on ahead and I’ll make sure my cocky-ass partner doesn’t tear your throat out once I untie him.”
“Okay,” I said with a chuckle as I exited the truck. Walking towards the door, I was overtaken by the beauty. The house itself was like something out of a movie, the most glam place I had ever seen. And I, in contrast, looked like a dirty hitch-hiker who made a wrong turn on the way to the casinos.
I slowly raised my arm, but the door opened before I could even knock. “Of course they have a security system.” I took a deep, cleansing breath as I prepared my sweetest, most trustworthy smile. “Hi!”
“Hello, there.” A tall blonde answered the door. With her hair hung loose down her back, and her eyes sparkling in the desert sun, she looked supermodel beautiful. “Can I help you, Miss?”
“I’m a friend of Adam Severgine,” my confidence quickly faded.
“Oh.” The woman’s eyes widened, I could practically see her heart breaking into pieces. “H-He passed away a few years ago.”
“Yes, I know.” Gee that doesn’t sound creepy at all. “I’m Raven Miller.” I held out my hand, hoping to salvage the interaction.
“Alyssa,” she said in a gentle, kindhearted voice as she shook my hand. “Alyssa Severgine.”
“Alyssa…” Adam’s voice echoed behind me. He seemed calm, even happy, while on the verge of tears. “She was my best friend, who married my widow. God, I missed you.”
Your lesbian best friend married your ex-wife? I bit my lip to hold back laughter.
“So, um, how do you know Adam?” Alyssa asked.
I, unfortunately, did not have an answer prepared. “Oh, well, um. Adam was a friend of my father’s.” Wait, that makes no sense. “Actually he was more like a friend of a friend.”
The awkwardness was broken by the delightful squeals of a happy toddler. The energetic little girl had her mother’s light blonde hair and Adam’s dark blue eyes. “DaDa!” she was looking behind me.
“I’m actually a friend of your Daddy.” The little girl shoved around me, she was reaching for Adam. She could see him.
“Jamie Felicity!” Alyssa shouted, scooping up her daughter.
“Dada!” the little girl cried. “I want Dada!”
Alyssa ushered me inside and closed the door. “I just don’t want the neighbors thinking I’m insane. Or more insane, anyway.”
We entered the home, to the pristine living room. The decor was white, pastel pink, yellow, green and blue. “Wow, very CandyLand.”
“My wife was going for a Navajo-chic vibe,” Alyssa said with a chuckle. “Let me get you something to drink, is Voss water ok?”
“That would be great.” I had actually never had a Voss water before but I heard they were something special. I took a seat on the plush, leather sofa. “Wow, this place is gorgeous,” I said in a whisper.
Adam took a seat beside me. “Yeah,” he said with a nod. His voice going soft as he looked around. “It’s everything my family deserves.”
“Uh-huh.” I read between the lines. This palace of a home was everything Adam couldn’t give his family when he was alive.
Jamie came running back in, slamming into the padded leg of a coffee table. “Dada!” She fell on her bottom with a thump, followed by adorable tears. “WAHHH Dada!
Alyssa rushed back in, placing two bottles of water on the table before making a grab for her daughter. “Oh, my sweet baby.”
But little Jamie kept reaching for Adam. “Want Dada!”
I had been giggling so hard at the adorable scene, I never stopped to look at Adam’s face. He was being abnormally quiet for a man who was meeting his child for the first time. I waited for Alyssa to turn away (since clearly only I and little Jamie could see him.)
My soldier friend looked stoic. He was staring straight ahead, his intense blue eyes unblinking. But I could tell he was trying not to cry. After all, there was not much he could currently do. Adam was essentially visiting his family the way one would visit animals in a zoo.
Mesmerized, and awestruck by what I was witnessing, I froze. This was emotion across space, time, reality. Maybe, just maybe, if Adam could see into the realm of the living, then perhaps the people I’ve loved and lost could as well. My mouth hung open as I tried to think of what to say next. I didn’t even notice when Alyssa took a seat by my side.
“Can you see him?” she asked in a whisper, as she placed her hand upon my shoulder.
I was shivering with nerves. “Yeah, I would have said something but I wasn’t sure if you believed in that kinda thing.”
“Yes!” I said excitedly. “Adam’s here.” This was going to be easier than I thought.
She reached her hand up as if trying to feel for him. “Adam was in so much pain, the last few months. He fought so hard. But, in the end, the illness just took everything.”
Her words broke my heart. I knew what she felt, and I would have given anything to let her see him. “Adam died in hospice?
Alyssa nodded. “I’d like to think he passed in his sleep, that he didn’t suffer too much.”
“He told me you were pregnant when he died.”
She nodded. “I loved him.”
“What does Jamie know about her father?”
“I like to tell her stories. His first wife used to tell their daughter stories to help pass the time when he was deployed. That’s where Daddy is, he’s deployed, on a great big adventure.” Alyssa wiped tears from her eyes.
That was why Jamie was so adamant about reaching for Adam. She probably thought he was alive. I almost felt guilty. “So, what brought you to Las Vegas?”
as if on cue, the door opened. A woman with long black hair and olive skin stood there in her chef whites.
Alyssa stood up. “Marni!” she greeted her wife with a kiss.
“I didn’t know we had company.”
“Marni, this is Raven Miller, she’s a friend of Adam. Raven, I assume you know Marni.”
“His first wife.” That was literally all I knew.
“Well, I was married to Adam for over twenty years and I have no idea who you are.”
Twenty years? She didn’t look a day over thirty. “I just met him recently.” I regretted my choice of words almost immediately because she also looked ready to kick my ass.
Marni stared daggers into me, her eyes squinting as if she was trying to figure out what scam I was trying to pull. “Get the fuck out of my house.”
Alyssa put herself in front of Marni, trapping her in the doorway. “Oh come on! Ask her something only Adam would know.”
I glanced at Adam, hoping he was ready for whatever was about to go down.
“Ok,” Marni said with a sigh. “I have a question. How old were you when you first tried to kill yourself?”
Adam nodded in my direction. “Fifteen.”
“Fifteen,” I repeated. I then turned to Adam. “You tried to kill yourself when you were fifteen?”
Adam locked eyes with Marni, meeting her across space and time. The moment was surreal.
Marni took a step forward, her eyes locked on Adam. “Why are you here?”
Adam opened his mouth to speak but no words came out.
“He needed to meet his daughter,” I said, motioning to Jamie. “Can I hold her?”
“Dada!” Jamie cried, reaching her arms out to me.
Adam shook his head, turn and left, passing through Marni out the front door.
As his spirit drifted through her, I saw Marni flinch. She could feel him. To her credit she stepped to the side, allowing me to run after my invisible ‘friend.’
“Adam!” I shouted. “We came all this way for you.”
Adam seemed indifferent. “You’re riding in the back of the truck, Witch.”
“Is that an order, Master Sergeant?” I asked with a sarcastic smirk.
I expected him to laugh or at least continue walking in the direction of the truck but instead, he made a sharp turn towards the main fence. He was walking away from both his family’s house and the truck. Oh crap.
His ethereal form walked through the fence, disappearing into the landscape beyond.
I should have gone for the truck, but my first instinct was to follow him. “Adam?” I hopped the fence landing feet first in the desert sand. Seeing that he was gone, or didn’t want to be found, I took a seat on a warm rock, sitting comfortably with my head in my hands. “You know, you remind me so much of my father,” I said out loud. “He was a coward, a victim, except when it came to family.” I paused to look around. I was a good distance away from the fence, and even if I wasn’t I was sure Alysa and Marni were safely back inside their air-conditioned home. “My father loved his family more than anything. I guess that’s just what it takes to be a parent; to love so selflessly, until it hurts. and then keep up that momentum until it kills you.”
Adam materialized in front of me, reaching out his hand. “Take a walk with me?”
“Sure.” We walked in silence for a while, me holding his hand like a child. “I’m glad you came back.”
“I didn’t have much of a choice,” he said, looking up at the sun. “I’m already dead; there are only a few directions to go from here. If I walk away from my mission, I’ll become one of those pissed off ghosts that Leo will eventually have to send to hell. But I’m not ready to go back. Not yet.”
“Ok,” I said giving his hand a squeeze. “We have all the time in the world.” We walked in silence for a moment, taking in the scenery. But after only a few moments in the triple-digit heat, I felt the need to find a place to sit. I walked him to a nearby tree, taking a seat under the bare branches. I sat on a rock, and there was enough space for Adam to join me. But he opted for the ground, while still holding my hand. “So, was Alyssa the love of your life? I mean she seems nice.”
“I don’t like to think about relationships in terms of romantic love.”
Just when I thought this moment couldn’t get any more akward. “I don’t understand.”
“You wouldn’t. I had a really messed up childhood, it left me with a lifetime of issues.”
Oh, it’s a dick measuring contest! “Worse than being force-fed your dead father’s remains by your succubus-witch of a mother?”
Adam cracked a smile. “At least you’re alive.”
“Really?” I laughed. His answer was too hilarious to be offensive.
Adam only shrugged. “I’d give anything to go back to my fucked up life. I mean, I can watch over my family, like a creepy stalker.” He pursed his lips, closing his eyes as if in prayer. “I’ve never felt so alone.”
“What about Leo? He’s your partner. He seems to really care about you. Do you-”
“Do I love him?” Adam’s longing gaze gave me my answer. “I love him in a way that completes me. I used to think he could heal me, save me, a way that Alyssa and Marni never could. But I’ve come to learn, every relationship that I’ve been in has been nothing more than a bandaid.”
“So, what exactly happened to you as a kid?” I asked, a little colder than I intended.
“I-I can’t talk about that.”
Because the memory is too painful? Or because you just don’t want to talk to me? Rather than ask, I went with something a little more empowering. “You lived it, you can talk about it.”
That got a relucent nod. “My father was a sadist. He conned a teenage runaway to come live with him.”
“He kept her locked in a basement below the crawlspace. That’s where I was born. And where I watched her die. But it was also where the police found me.”
“How old were you?”
“Six, I think, just old enough to remember everything.”
“I remember the beatings, the torture, the pain.” He pursed his lips, blinking tears from his eyes. “My father would hurt me to hurt her. But in those same memories, I can see her face. If I forget the nightmare I’ll forget her.”
“You left her in hell.” I did the same thing.
“What did you say?”
“If you let go of the nightmare you let go of her. But sometimes it’s better to let go.” I blinked back tears as the words choked in my throat, “That way the person you care about; they get to move on.” I gave his hand a squeeze. “What do I feel like?”
He pursed his lips, tears welling up in his eyes. “I can’t feel anything of this world. Not you, not the sun. I’m just ready for this all to be over.”
A single car drove past us. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Leo. I was hot, in desperate need of water. Looking back toward the houses, I could see we had walked at least a few miles, past the point of no return. “You know, I think I was wrong. You’re not like my father. You remind me more of Nate.” At that moment I missed Nate more than anything. I saw visions of the future we could have had; places we would have seen, children we could have had. Adam did not deserve to be compared to someone so special. “Nate Greyson lost everything. So he devoted his existence to protecting what little he had.”
“And what do I have?” Adam asked, his voice genuine and kind.
“You have Leo. And, well, you have me.”
“Are you serious?” He asked with a chuckle. Adam didn’t seem upset. In fact, he appeared to be smiling the most beautiful smile.
Like Nate’s smile. “I think we should head back, Leo’s probably worried.”
Adam stood up. “Yeah, I guess, you’re right.” He reached for my hand as if trying to help me up.
It was a friendly gesture, nothing more. But I was lost in his eyes.
I cupped his face and kissed him softly.
He didn’t resist. Adam placed a hand to my cheek, tracing his finger along my jaw as he lifted my face. “What do I feel like?”
“You feel like energy, light, love,” I paused, as he kissed me again. I was looking at him, truly seeing him for the first time. “Hope. You feel like hope.”
HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONK, The loud horn was unmistakable. Leo had found us. “Jesus Christ, I’ve been looking all over for you two!”
I started to laugh, taking a step back from our intimacy. “We were just heading back, I swear.”
Adam moved to stand behind me.”She’s telling the truth.” His hand touched mine with a gentle warmth.
Leo parked the truck. “Since you’re on such friendly terms now, you can both ride in the back.” He waved his hands, conjuring up the silver rope.
“Uh,” I muttered, gripping Adam’s hand.
“I’m kidding.” With a flick of the wrist, Leo executed a perfect whip snap. The rope transformed into a cowboy hat, which Leo placed upon his head. “Now let’s get the hell out of here. There’s plenty of room in the front seat. And I just installed AC.”
Adam climbed in the passenger seat. He reclined slightly and raised the armrest.
I assumed I was going to sit between them but to my surprise, Adam pulled me on to his lap before closing the door. I leaned back, resting my body against his. He felt like hope, like strength. He felt so much like Nate.
Of course, thinking about Nate made me think about Lola, my baby, and Annie, my wife. And to get back to them I needed to reunite with my brother. And I think I knew how.