Hope

Part 4

"In Yaru, I have accomplished much in two days. I got (almost) a new wardrobe, some new friends, and... a JOB! After diner yesterday, the manager of the Blue Moon offered me a job doing whatever they needed me to do. We had been there for every meal since it was the only place we knew had good food, and that we knew how to get to. I gratefully accepted the offer. Zeke was happy for me, but Alicia was (and still is) in denial. I think she doesn't believe I'll stay, and if I do, that Zeke and she will actually leave me behind. I guess she'll be even more shocked the day after tomorrow, when Zeke say's that the two of them will leave. Speaking of Zeke, he and I have agreed that everything in mine and Carter's bags that I wish to keep will remain in my possession. I only kept the bags, the tapestries, the books, my brush, and my laptop. I gave the rest back to him, for I can get those things in Yaru with my own money once I have the space. Courage will be staying with me, as well as all my remaining seitra.

Zeke says he's really gonna miss me. And the times we spent reading Lord of the Rings. He might never know the outcome, but he says he'll be okay with that. Alicia may be another story though. That's the only thing he's expressed any concerns for ever since my decision. I'm worried too. There's no telling how she'll take this whole thing; she's way too complicated. Even if we had a map of her entire mental mind, we still wouldn't be able to predict anything. Maybe it means that we're insensitive. Or stupid, or just ignorant. Meh. I really doubt that's the case in this situation.

I still don't know where I'll stay when those two leave, but I'll think of something. Always do. What about that JK guy? Is it possible that he could arrange something for me? I don't know... Anyway, I'm just sitting on long blue beach chair that was up here on the hotel room's balcony. Alicia and Zeke are still snoozing (and snoring in reference to Alicia). What I find so amazing at the moment is that I stayed up way later than those two, and I woke up much earlier than they did. This TV thing thy have in each room is so cool! I was up until two thirty in the morning watching it, and I realized ho much I like... um... anime, I believe it's called. Yeah, that's right, anime. None of them talk about this place, what it's like now, but they do have some extremely imaginative ways the world will end up. Really imaginative.

Oh look! Zeke's up, and Alicia, as I expected, is the latest sleeper. That means I can have a little fun... But before I do so, I have to emphasize how much I'm gonna like not going outdoors for a while. Being in Yaru is a brand new adventure." I turned off the power and bid good morning to Zeke, who had made his way to the balcony through the doorway, since I'd left the sliding glass door open. Then I leaned over the edge of my chair and tapped Courage on the head. The dog sprang up instantly and asked him to get Alicia up. Tail wagging, he tiptoed to the edge of her bed, not making a sound. Suddenly the dog bounded on top of the girl and slobbered kisses all over her face.

Alicia screamed and attempted to shove the Siberian off her, but nothing happened. She wasn't as strong as me.

"Call 'mov! Call 'mov!" came her cries from amidst the pile of pillows and blankets. Zeke and I were laughing so hard our sides were sore, and to prolong her torture Zeke teased her by asking "What's the magic word?" All this time Courage was still licking away, and we couldn't stop laughing. Alicia groaned, and after a minute or so, we heard her again.

"Pleez call mov!" yelled the girl. I sighed and lowered my head, and Zeke seemed a little crestfallen as well.

"Courage, down boy!" I commanded. He obeyed the order immediately, dropping off the wet bed. Alicia rolled off onto the floor, groaning louder as if she'd been shot. Now we rolled our eyes as our friend, drenched in Siberian slobber, took the opportunity to make this a full dramatic moment.

"My hair! My gown! They're all sticky!! Eeeewww, grodie!" Alicia kept saying. All the while she stood up and made the short walk to the bathroom. "You are soooo gonna pay for this!" This being said, she slammed the bathroom door shut.

"To whom was she referring to?" Zeke wondered out loud. I shrugged, but Alicia would soon deliver a reply.

"Both of you!" and the door slammed again.

"I sure hope she doesn't break it." I giggled with Zeke about his last comment and went back into the room. The husky sat at the edge of Alicia's bed, his tail thumping loudly on the floor.

"Good boy, Courage. Thanks for the laugh." He licked my face and began to pant, his tail wagging harder, making more noise in the red-carpeted room. Seconds later I heard the shower start up, and I decided to do poor slobber girl a favor by getting her some clean (and dry) clothes out from her bag. Then I placed them right outside the door so her thick, brownish-blondish, hair wouldn't drip all over the hotel room floor.

I glanced back out to the balcony and saw Zeke, leaning over the balcony and getting caught in his own thoughts, like me. I wonder what's gotten him so tuned out. I shook my head to keep myself from getting lost in my own train of thought. Standing between the two beds, I focused on the clock that lay on the nightstand in front of me. It read nine-o clock, still fairly early. I noticed the remote close to my left foot, lying next to the blanket and pillow on the floor that I had used as a bed last night. I took it up and sat down on Zeke's bed. When he heard the TV come on, Zeke strode in casually, leaving the door open as it had been when he'd gone out. Now a slight breeze was blowing inside, and it felt so good.

I looked don at the rectangular object and pressed a bright red button that read POWER. The TV screen went from black to white, and then the pictures appeared. After I went down a few channels, I stopped on one where a movie had just started. The title had appeared, and it read "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" under some green symbols.

"What an odd title..." Zeke remarked. I smiled, and we heard the bathroom door open, then close again. A minute later it opened up once more, and Alicia stepped into the hallway, steam swirling around her head full of wet hair.

"Feel better now, Alicia?" I asked. She smiled sarcastically before going over to her pack, where she'd left her brand new sandals beside it. Delicately she slipped into them, as if she were afraid that they would break if she stepped to hard upon them. This time, Zeke looked back at the clock.

"Guess we'd better get over to breakfast," he suggested. Both Alicia and I looked at him and nodded. Zeke and I put our shoes on; we turned off the TV and closed the balcony before we left, Courage trailing behind us. Down at the Blue Moon, we sat at "our" table eating our breakfast of bacon and pancakes. Suddenly someone tapped my shoulder, and I swear that I jumped at least a foot into the air. I turned around in my chair to see Matt, decked out in his UA uniform. "Hey, how 'ya doin'?" he asked through a grin.

"Not bad," I replied, the adrenaline slowing going away inside of me. "Pull up a seat." He took my suggestion and grabbed a chair from the nearest empty table and set it beside me. Courage barked a hello, and I introduced my new friend to my old ones. "Guys, this is Matt. Matt, this is Alicia and Zeke." Alicia waved and Zeke flashed a smile towards Matt, who raised his eyebrows in return. "So what's up?"

"If any of you were planning to leave this place, you'd better do it by today."

"Why?" I asked.

"Orders from HQ. They say the Winter Army's head right this way, so we're supposed to close up the gates tonight and not let anyone leave later until they say so.

"What?" Alicia didn't seem to believe that. Zeke's eyes narrowed, but he didn't say a word. I took a second and figured out that I'd been with Alicia and Zeke for eight years. The reality hit me: I'm the closest thing to family for them, and I'm about to break away from them, maybe forever. Matt shrugged his shoulders, then ran his hands through his red hair.

"Sorry guys. I didn't know until macro early this morning."

"Macro?" questioned Zeke.

"UA term. It means really or a lot, we took it form a movie. Anyway, if you really want to avoid all of the traffic, you'd best be leaving before noon."

"Thanks for the warning. By the way, what time is it?" I asked. Matt looked down at his watch and I saw his eyes widen. "Damn, it's 10:30! I need to get back to base ASAP. Well, I'll see 'ya!" He bolted from his chair and left, seeming rather afraid. Alicia crossed her arms and got that pouting look on her face.

"I don't wanna go!" she cried. Zeke knocked her on the back of her head, and then she knocked him back. "Why are we gonna leave Hope all by herself?"

"Cuz she wants us to," Zeke replied. "And I completely understand. Maybe Hope wants to start over, approach this world in an entirely new direction. That's her decision to make." Both Alicia and I looked down at our feet. I heard Zeke slide his chair away from the table and get up. I glanced back up at him, and even he looked sad. "I'm going back to the hotel to get my stuff. C'mon Alicia, we need to leave as soon as we can." I saw his fists clenched down at his sides, and I rose from my seat. I went over and stood right in front of him. For a while I stared at him, looked at his deep blue eyes and his unkempt black hair. Then I leaned on him, my arms going across his shoulders and back to loop around his neck. I knew that once I did this I wouldn't want to let go, but I did it anyway.

It got better, too. He hugged me back, and soon Alicia hugged both of us. Zeke was the first one to let go, and then Alicia, last me. I leaned back and steadied myself on my own two feet. When I looked back at Alicia, I saw her eyes water and she ran out. Zeke glanced at me with his trademark "see 'ya later" look and ran out to catch up with her. I slumped down in Zeke's chair and put my hands in my face. I felt Courage's fur brush against my ankles, his head in my lap.

"Well, I got what I wanted. Let's see what I can make of it," I said. My gaze shifted down to Courage. When he saw my face, his ears pricked up and his tail wagged furiously. It made her smile and she stoop up. Slowly she made her way to the door, the dog beside her. It seemed like an eternity had passed before she summoned the strength to open the door and head back toward the hotel. And another one for her to go back to the room. All the things were gone save for what she'd asked to keep, and a bag on the nightstand. She went over to it and picked up the pouch, feeling how heavy it was before setting it down again. They'd left her most of their money.

Beside it, she noticed a silver bracelet with a nameplate in the middle. etched into the nameplate was the word REMI. A note card under the object had a little message, written in Alicia's neat handwriting: "Remember, Every Memory is Important. Love (they both signed in their own handwriting) Alicia and Zeke.

I smiled again and slipped the bracelet onto my right hand. "Let's see what O can make of it..."