|A Gift of Time
Author: Wyndes PM
In the quirky small town of Tassamara, FL, paranormal gifts are taken for granted. Natalya's gift has always been bleak, though - she can see the future, but changing it seldom works for the better. But when a future she's known about for years doesn't happen the way she expects, what else will change in her life?Rated: Fiction T - English - Supernatural/Romance - Chapters: 16 - Words: 36,278 - Reviews: 57 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 12 - Updated: 04-30-13 - Published: 06-26-12 - id: 3036333
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Colin slid behind the wheel of his car. He flipped off the overhead light bar and reached for his radio transmitter. Then he paused. What exactly was he going to say to the dispatcher?
Growing up in Tassamara meant that his standards for weird were pretty high, but this had been the weirdest hour of his life. He'd been dead. At least he thought he'd been dead. He'd looked down at his body and he'd talked to a pretty girl about what came next and he'd accepted that his life was over. And now here he was.
A cautious joy was creeping over him. He wasn't dead. He'd kissed Nat. And maybe he'd die in the next twenty minutes or two hours, but maybe he wouldn't, too.
Maybe he'd live.
He needed to talk to Nat about her vision, find out exactly what she'd seen so long ago, what details had come true.
But first things first.
Right now he needed to focus on the little girl. He'd tell the dispatcher that he'd found a child and was taking her to the closest medical facility to get checked out. They'd get the officer on-duty to start working the case; checking the missing persons database, contacting neighboring counties to see if any reports of lost girls hadn't made it into the system yet, calling the ranger stations on federal land to see if they'd seen or heard anything.
Could she have been in an accident? Maybe her parents were trapped in a crashed car somewhere in the forest.
Colin picked up the transmitter, trying to organize his thoughts and put together a mental description of the girl. Eight or nine years old, Caucasian, light brown hair, blue eyes, approximately four feet, maybe 60 pounds.
It wasn't a whisper. It was a thought.
But it wasn't his thought.
Not reporting the girl would be ridiculously stupid. She came from somewhere, belonged to someone. Out in the world, desperately worried parents had to be searching for her. His job was clear; to get her home to them as quickly as possible.
Keep her safe. Keep her secret.
He pressed the button on the transmitter but then let it go.
He'd had the same voice in his head by the side of the road. She's afraid, she's hiding, try strawberry. Maybe if it weren't for the last phrase, he would have thought it was his subconscious putting together clues and turning them into ideas, but strawberry? Strawberry milkshakes were disgustingly sweet, revolting concoctions of pink goo. He wouldn't eat one if you paid him to and it would never have occurred to him to offer one to the girl.
Carefully, he thought, 'Can you hear me?'
Don't tell anyone.
It wasn't an answer to his question. Out loud, he asked, "Why do I need to keep her a secret?"
The response didn't come in words, but in a rush of gratitude and relief.
"Who are you?" he asked, but he already knew. It was the other girl, the teenager. He rubbed a hand over his face, trying to ignore the scent of flowers filling the car.
Maybe he was hallucinating. Stroke, aneurysm, brain tumor, concussion? Obviously, he'd damaged his brain, maybe before he passed out, maybe when he hit the ground. Any sensible person would believe that.
Sensible people didn't last long in Tassamara.
All the memories were blurry, fuzzy already, as if it had been a dream. They'd talked about his parents. She'd seemed to know them, although not the way she should have. And there had been a door, like a gap in the air. Baby birds, something about flying. He couldn't fit the pieces together and the words were just wisps of memory.
The transmitter was still in his hand. He put it back in its slot.
He had no idea what he was going to do. But he'd start by letting Nat find out if there was anything wrong with him. He locked his car behind him as he headed toward Nat's.
As they started to drive away, Natalya turning the car around to head to General Directions, Colin asked the girl her name again. She didn't answer. He flipped down the visor and flipped open the mirror, angling it so that he would be able to see her reactions, but the car was too dark.
He put his hand up to the overhead light and glanced at Nat but her eyes were intent on the road. Taking her lack of response for permission, he pushed on the light and craned his neck to see the girl seated behind him. Her eyes were glazing over, the lids fluttering down. Her head tipped to one side and she jerked it back upright, eyes flying open. She saw him looking at her and scowled, eyes narrowing and lips setting stubbornly, before her scowl disappeared in a yawn.
Colin smiled as he turned off the overhead light and settled back into his seat. He didn't mind her glare. It was a good sign, he thought, that her fear didn't have her cowering in the corners. Whatever trauma she'd sustained might have her silent for the moment, but when she realized that she was safe, she'd start talking and once he knew her story, he could get her safely back home. Without upsetting the other girl, the invisible one, by telling anyone else. It was the perfect solution. All he needed was a little patience.
"Is she asleep?" Natalya asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Getting that way."
Natalya nodded and they drove in silence down the winding dark roads toward the gate that barred the way into GD. The security booth was dark, no guard on duty, but Nat pulled to a stop and rolled down her window.
She punched a code into the computer pad next to the gate and then stopped with one hand still in the air. "Did you tell them to have DCF meet us here?"
Hmm. How exactly was he going to explain the messages from the invisible girl to Natalya? "DCF?" he asked, stalling for time.
"Child Protective Services will need to send a caseworker. They'll probably want a therapist present when you interview her."
"Right." He ran a hand over the back of his neck, feeling wisps of curl where he should have felt stubble.
"Well?" she asked, sounding impatient. "I need to know whether to leave the gate open."
"Go ahead and close it."
Natalya frowned, but finished with the pad and pulled forward. As the car slowly rolled onto the GD property, she nodded at the clock on the dashboard. "I know you don't want to disturb anyone's Christmas, but it's after 11. The caseworker's not going to be any happier about being called an hour from now. And if we need to go to Jacksonville, we probably shouldn't bring the girl with us."
"I'm not sure we'll need a caseworker."
Natalya glanced at him. "You think you know who she is?"
"Not exactly." He looked away, fingers tapping his leg.
"Oh, no," Natalya said, as she pulled the car into a parking space next to the front door of the building. "No, no, and no, again. I don't know what you're thinking but absolutely not."
"What are you talking about?"
She turned the car off. Opening her door, she got out. Colin followed suit. With the width of the car between them, in the glow from an overhead lamp, she leaned on the roof of the car. "I recognize that gesture. You are not talking me into skipping school. Or going skinny-dipping in a public spring. Or stopping by a Sigma Chi party the night before my chem final, just for half an hour."
"That woman was having an allergic reaction," he protested. "She needed help."
"The Sigma guys weren't total cretins. They would have figured it out. And taking her to the ER took half the night."
"You still got an A on the exam."
"Not the point. Whatever it is that you think you're going to talk me into, you're not. So give it up now."
A smile pulled at one corner of Colin's mouth. Haloed by the light, Nat's hair shone with glints of color, while the shadows made her blue eyes look mysterious and smoky. She was beautiful. How angry would she be if he told her so? Too angry, he decided with regret. "We'll talk about it."
"No, we won't." She pushed herself off the car. "I'll get a guard to carry in the girl. Until we know what's going on with your heart, you shouldn't exert yourself. Wait here."
She walked away, up the cobblestone path, her shoes clicking on the hard surface.
Colin watched her go and then turned away from the building so the security cameras wouldn't record him talking to himself. "I don't think Nat's going to go along with keeping the girl a secret. And I'm not sure I can stop her from calling DCF. What do you want me to do?"
"That's not going to be easy." It felt weird and sort of creepy to be talking to empty space. He glanced in the car window to check on the girl. She'd tilted as she fell asleep and her hand had crept up to her mouth, the thumb not quite inside but tucked next to her lips as if she would have been sucking it if she'd been just a little younger. "When Nat gets a bee in her bonnet about doing the right thing, she's a force of nature. If she thinks we need to notify DCF, it's going to be tough to convince her otherwise."
Until finally, as if the words were grudging, reluctant, Delay her. I'll be back.
Where could the invisible girl be going?