We drove in the silence of the music again until I was finished with the shake. I was putting it in the console when Alex asked, “You feel better now?”
“I’m not hungry, if that’s what you are asking,” I said.
“And the rest?”
I shrugged. “Still annoyed.”
Alex nodded. “So I wanted to clear a few things up. I wasn’t angry with you because those girls were thinking about you. I just thought it was funny, thought you might too.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t find it humorous. I was feeling rejected,” I said.
“Why?” Alex questioned me with a glance but turned his eyes back to the road.
“Because you left me alone to do my thing.”
Alex sighed, “I heard a phone ringing. And then another rang.”
I just nodded. Alex asked, “So you really aren’t going to ask who was on your phone?”
I shrugged. “If it was important you’d tell me.”
“It actually was important,” Alex said. “I just didn’t know how to tell you so I guess I’ll just say it. Your former handler was found dead last night.”
That got my attention. I sat up straight and looked at him. “Mich’s dead?” No fucking way.
“You really liked her?” Alex said and I heard that tinge of green in his words.
“She taught me. That’s all.”
“Except it’s not all, you fucked her.”
I sighed, “Yeah, I did. I’m sorry that it was during our time. I was a childish fool. I have an obligation…”
Alex interrupted, “I wont say I don’t care because obviously I did or do, whatever. But Dorian called, said that there are special instructions for you. He wanted to know where to send them. I told him we were driving back to New York, and were passing through Colorado shortly. I asked him when the funeral was, and he said tomorrow. I figured we could do that, and I can introduce you to Kish, which is who I was on the phone with when you walked in. I was going to tell you then, but you looked sorta put out.”
“You don’t have to do this for me. I didn’t know her that well, and celebrating her life really doesn’t matter to me. Whatever instructions she left I can get at home.”
Alex shook his head. “No.”
That was all he said And we were left again in the silence of it all.
Thirty minutes. An hour. Two hours pass before Alex turns off the highway on to another highway.
“You don’t want to talk?” Alex asked.
“About what?” I asked.
I shrugged. “Not really. If you want to talk, tell me what’s going on I’ll listen.” I knew I kept shutting him down. But I didn’t want him to say anything he regretted. “I just don’t want you to get angry with me because I’m asking questions about your life that you don’t want to share. I want you to see it’s about you, not me. I’m not being selfish.”
Alex sighed, “Back to that.”
“Back to that. Alex. I try to give you the attention you crave and you tell me to stop asking questions. So now, I’m not going to ask you anything. I’m back to the point that you’ll tell me what you want me to know. But obviously you don’t want me to know anything.”
“That’s not true,” Alex interrupted.
“So what happened this morning, what were you dreaming about?” I asked.
Alex went white, and he screwed his mouth shut. His fingers turned white on the steering wheel. “If it’s that hard to talk about don’t worry about it.” I said and shifted so I was facing the door instead of the middle. I stared out the window and watched the trees and signs pass us. We were going deeper into the mountains – we were heading back to where we were both born. Where my mother and Michaela both died My heart started to race and it was everything I could do to not settle into the panic that was trying to overwhelm me. I was going to fall – and it was going to be hard.
We drove for another mile or two before Alex grabbed his bottle of water, took a swig and after he put his bottle back in the cubby he put his hand on my knee. “I had a nightmare.” His voice was distant. “Saw this black fur thing sitting on your chest. It was hurting you. I didn’t know what it was. But your back was bleeding, its eyes were glowing red and you just took it. Just laid there and let it hurt you biting back the screams and the tears.”
It sounded a lot like my nightmares. “Funny thing was, I know it’s real. This thing sitting on your chest. I saw it last night. it hissed at me, said ‘mine’ and when I went to attack it, it was gone in a puff of smoke. I’ve seen this black form/shape/thing in the dream before Always around you. Something black always takes you away from me in the dreams. Now it’s here trying to take you.”
I turned to face Alex and was listening. I was still on the edge of panic, of losing my control. But one thing about faking it till you make it – being able to power through had become second nature. I could survive for Alex, if for no other reason. “You sure you were awake? I had a nightmare last night. Everything you describe except it sitting on my chest is my nightmare.”
Alex nodded, “I was awake. I know what fucking awake feels like. I’m a fucking dreamwalker.”
He was angry. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes and just nodded. I wouldn’t say anything else. I couldn’t do this right now. I leaned back in the seat and stared up. We’d stop soon. That was my only hope.