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Recap: John wakes up in a foreign room, trying to make sense of where he is and who he is. The mysterious converse-donning lady offers him breakfast, which he can’t refuse.
notes at the end
When I finally amble down the stairs, I easily find the kitchen by the smells emanating from the room. Whoever this lady is, she sure can cook. The house is filled with the smell of eggs and potatoes—I can also hear the hiss-crack of bacon cooking in the pan. When I walk in, I want to hug her because, despite what people say, food is the way to a man’s heart and this woman has won me over.
The kitchen is rustic with mint green walls and pale cabinetry. There is a breakfast bar that divides the main cooking area from the open dining room. It’s homey although I note that it doesn’t look very lived in. I slide onto one of the stools, silently, and watch the woman as she continues cooking.
She has on a rich green t-shirt with dark wash blue jeans and, yes, her red converses. Her light blond hair is pulled back by a bright red hair band at the nape of her neck, a few curls escaping forward. She seems oblivious to my presence—moving ever so slightly to shift the bacon in the pan from time to time. It feels domestic, extremely surreal given my circumstances, and I briefly wonder in a bout of madness that if I didn’t shatter the illusion, maybe I could stay here: in some modern version of Little House on the Prairie.
Finally, the silence drags out too long, so I break it. “So what’s your name?”
The woman startles and some hot grease splashes onto the counter. She curses, reaching for the paper towels.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” I apologize. I consider getting up to help but decide it’s better that I didn’t. She’d probably feel safer if I kept my distance.
“I’m Diane,” she supplies after a moment and then tosses me a tired smile. “And no need to apologize—I just hadn’t heard you. You’re really quiet for such a big guy.”
I give her a feral smile. “You calling me fat?” I challenge.
She laughs softly. “Oh please,” and she returns to her cooking. I get the distinct feeling I’m not a stranger—or rather, that she’s not treating me like a stranger. So either she’s a looney or the Labs caught up with me and she’s just a decoy.
The buzzing I so arduously quieted before starts again. I can hear the silverware rattling in the drawer in the breakfast bar and the fluorescent light above begins wavering. I can feel every appliance in the room like an extension of myself and it consumes me. When Diane turns back towards me, I still have the feral grin but I’m pretty sure I’m glowing again.
“oh…my…god….” She breathes out once she finally turns around. She begins to edge away but she can feel the energy in the air and its planting her feet to the ground. “who are you?!” she whispers and it’s louder than if she had yelled. It has absolute fear in it, which makes me pause. The fluorescent light stops flickering and the silverware quits rattling.
“Are you with them?” I ask, rising from my seat. Sure I don’t think she is now, but she could be a great actress. God knows I could be a great actor if I wanted to and I failed drama in High School. I begin to step around the breakfast bar, only a few feet from her. “Answer my question: are you with them?” I demand.
“Who are them?” the woman practically sobs, beginning to step backwards. I lunge to stop her, grabbing the front of her shirt and holding her just inches from the boiling grease of the bacon. She looks backwards at the averted accident. She’s rigid under my touch but relaxing millimeter by millimeter. “I’m just a nurse,” she admonishes, voice small but not as scared as before.
After a moment’s pause, she looks back at me, her brown eyes burning with courage I hadn’t thought possible outside of battle hardened soldiers. “Now you answer me: who are you?”
I swallow thickly releasing her shirt and stepping back. I run a hand through my hair, which is still too short for my liking.
Do you apologize in this sort of situation or just head for the hills?
“Er…” I begin, turning bright red. “I am John Forrester of the Delta Task Force.” Her brow wrinkles and she continues to look at me with skepticism. I sigh. “It’s an inter-military task force. Or really, separate; we do a lot of undercover and recon. I was in a special division of Delta that got very important people out of very bad situations.”
Diane wrinkles her nose this time, but at least her brow has smoothed out.
“You’d be surprised how stupid important people can be,” I divulge and a smile starts to crack across her features.
“You know,” she says softly, “when I saw that uniform; I thought it was my Jack on the side of the road, coming home. But you’re not him. He’d never have qualified for Delta.”
I nod, amazed that she’s avoiding the elephant in the room with such grace. “What does he do?” I ask.
“He was in the infantry for the army,” Diane states with emphasis on the past tense. It hits me hard and deep. I know what it’s like to lose a soldier; but losing someone that close to her must have hurt worse.
She pulls the bacon off the stove and for a moment I think I’m home free. Then she turns around and asks. “So care to explain why you were glowing?”
She squarely smacks the elephant crowding the kitchen.
After gathering my wits about me, I smile, “I’m part glow worm!”
Her expression doesn’t change—it’s serious and slightly disconcerting.
“Part fire fly?”
She refuses to take it.
“Secretly a phoenix?”
Damn this woman’s face is immobile.
Well, suppose the truth won’t hurt: “I’m an escaped government experiment.”
She nods and begins pulling the bacon out to blot it. “That’s what you said yesterday, too.” Then she hands me a plate full of food and pushes me towards the table, which I only now notices has two glasses of orange juice on it. “Now eat,” she commands.
Bewildered, I do.
As it turns out, there’s something I just fail to understand that Diane states is “a damned shame” that I don’t: southern hospitality. Sure we are in Virginia, which is definitely not the Deep South, but Diane’s mother raised her to help anyone in need. She also admits that the similarity to her Jack might have made her overlook many of her misgivings.
After breakfast, Diane forces me to get cleaned up. I go through half a bottle of shampoo before I deem myself clean enough; I had weeks’ worth of dirt caked on and enough BO to gas a small country. Diane even hands me a razor, so that I’m shaved and somewhat groomed when I reappear downstairs in the uniform from before that Diane was nice enough to clean for me while I showered.
She’s waiting on her red couch that’s a few shades darker than her shoes, which, upon a double take, I realize she’s not wearing. I sit across from her in a tan arm chair, leaning forward with my elbows on my knees and my face in my hands. Diane places the book she had been reading down and pulls her legs up beside her like a cat, tucking her toes beneath herself. “How are you feeling?” she asks.
“Better,” I admit, not removing my hands from my face. With some thinking in the shower, I’ve calmed down from my hyped up paranoid mode and fell into “resigned to horrible fate mode”. “How are you?” I ask.
She smiles—I can feel it like a shift in the air and the whole room feels brighter because of it: “Good. I’m good.”
I steep in the silence for awhile, letting it wash over me. I can feel her eyes watch me for any movements or, more than likely, any more inhuman glowing. I’m waiting to hear the wail of the police siren—maybe she changed her mind on helping me and was prepared to turn me out when the next opportunity presented itself. With my head in my hands, the fleshy part of my palms pressing into my eyes, I slowly sunk into despair. “They’re going to kill me,” I confess.
Diane shifts a little, probably sitting up. “They said you’re an experiment, right?” I pull my hands away, but not far enough to see anything more than the pink flecked flesh of my palms.”They wouldn’t kill you if they thought you were useful.”
“Then what will they do to me?” I ask, my voice eerily calm for the mania I feel building inside of me. I think back to that man being dragged by the orderlies and his crazy smile as they hauled him off. It’s all just a game—it had seemed to have said–and maybe that’s all this is. Some fucked up game that I don’t even know the rules to, let alone how to win.
“Well what I think you have to figure out first is what did they do to you?” Diane poses. It sinks in and keeps some of creeping desolation at bay. “If you know what they did to you maybe…”
“Maybe I could get a step ahead,” I finish, finally looking up and seeing Diane leaning forward on the couch with her small mouth twisted in concern. Her eyes well with pity as I feel something in me awaken; this time it’s not the buzz, but rather the spirit of competition. Because this game I know how to play. This game of information I know how to win.
I smile, big and goofy, which breaks some of the tension. However, Diane’s face closes off again. “So what can you do other than possess my stove?”
My grin only widens. “Oh, sweetheart, you would not believe what I can do.”
Notes: I edited part 7 so that it’s shorter. As I worked on this one, I decided the breakfast scene fit better in this part in the last, so sorry for the repeat!