The house has three floors, or so I've been told. But Denim opens a door hidden behind a corner which reveals a new set of stairs. Ever since we left the Centre, he's always been looking behind his shoulder; either to make sure I'm following or that no one else is following us. It's a feeling and look I can't describe. When you're alone in unknown territory, you'd want to make sure that every direction around you is covered. Except, this isn't unknown territory for him; it's his own home.
He pauses at the top of the staircase and briefly presses buttons attached to the door handle. It slowly swings open and Denim lets me in. I wasn't sure what I was expecting. All I know it's a quiet place with no interruptions.
Every room seems to have the same layout. Except this one. There are still the same lush red curtains, a wooden nightstand, and a closet, but that's where the similarities end. The bed is gone and replaced by a long couch. And instead of posters and pictures; there are weapons. Bows and arrows hang delicately on the walls. All in different sizes and structures. There aren't only bows though. Slingshots, knives anything imaginable is here. They seem to rest majestically as if you touched one, they'll spring to life. The whole room seems to be covered in a layer of ageless dust.
I watch him place his bow against a wall and it balances, rocking back and forth until it stops. "My actual room is downstairs like everyone else's, but I use this one when I want to be alone." He says.
There isn't much to do in this room but practicing the weapons displaced on the walls. "What's this room for then?"
"I actually never use it often because unlike Mercedes, I actually go to school. This is where I study, usually."
School. Denim goes to school. "There is a school here?" I've never actually seen a school. I think about when that woman at the Second Hand store talked to me last. No, school's not for me. It's tempting; my urge to discover school is big but not enough to outweigh the chance of bumping into someone. My assumption is that it's a large building with many rooms.
He walks across the room and pulls a chair over. "No, I take lessons from the Internet. For us, it is mandatory to get an education, but with Mercedes and me running the training, we get off the hook. Recently I started physically going to different classes since I got assigned to work outside and –" he stops mid-sentence. Recovering, he waves it off. "Oh, never mind. It's not interesting. Here, sit."
"How big is this house?"
"Big enough. It has everything the Centre has but in smaller rooms. Also, it's more private. My mother told me it's because she wanted access to everything without the need to go to different buildings."
Denim pushes the chair over to my direction. I cautiously accept the chair though I prefer standing. "You won't sit?" The room is so bare I can sense my voice echoing just at the end of my words.
"Are you okay?" he says in an undertone. There was nothing else to distract him with so he reluctantly settles himself.
What did he mean? This morning with the two people from Light? What happened to Vesta? Whenever Denim asks questions, they are so vague. I feel like I need to go in and dig out what he's thinking or intending. "Yeah, I'm fine."
"You don't trust me?" It was more of a statement than a question.
I find the uncomfortable feeling when someone stares at you and I shift around on his chair. "I don't trust anybody."
He raises an eyebrow. "And why is that?"
"I thought we were going to talk about something else," I snap. "Not whether I trust people or not."
Denim laughs and looks at the ground. "Well, I don't know… if I'm going to tell you things, you'd have to trust me right?"
"Just tell me the truth," I say. "Please."
He leans back against the couch and eyes me skeptically. "Sometimes the truth hurts. It doesn't make sense and you're driven mad trying to understand, but you won't."
"Well, so do lies."
The look he precedes to gives me is frightening. Not in the sense that I feel like I have to flee nor that it's not safe but when you finally look and see their face and the different ways you can incorporate what they tell you. From their eyes. Eye contact.
He lets out a deep breath. "Okay, let's start off with the answer you're dying to know."
"Yes." I say and cross my hands.
"When the fugue between Hunter and Light paused, Light took the position of governing the military – although if you ask anyone of us, they'd deny right away that Light is in power and that they stole the position from us."
"Military? You have a military?" I've heard of them, but it seems so strange to have one here. It seems like this area is very forest like and not much room for such a big use of land.
Denim breathes out a laugh and starts to pace around the room. I look at the footprints he makes on the hardwood floor. He is restless as well. "Yeah, they tell me that both didn't want to mingle with humans without their so-called talent. To avoid any problems with the outside world, they created a high confined military training camp. It's right between our territory lines."
"And no one questions this…military? At all?"
"It's funny, we expect people to but I guess they don't really care and leave it alone. Society these days are unpredictable and we do keep our information airtight. We bring some people in, they train then and we either send them off or keep them. Most have a choice."
I'm still trying to draw the lines between the dots. "And I come in this…" I trail off in a way that I hope would make him get to the point. Denim is leaning against the table while I continue to stay seated in the middle of the room.
"My father, or as you like to call him and me, 'Stalker'…"
I glance at him for a second because although I haven't said anything about his father yet or reckoned naming him, Denim remembers the first thing I said to him. Our eyes lock and my mind is perceiving that he was already looking at me. No more words come out of his mouth and we…stare at each other.
It's just like that four seconds I took before. Those four seconds extend into infinity. Is this it? Am I supposed to look for something, anything? He briefly stops and smiles too and it feels weird. Weird is too broad of a word but that's all I can process in my mind. Eye contact. Look for something…
Denim looks at me as well. I wonder what he sees – I wonder for the first time what everyone sees. No doubt a girl, but what else? What else is hidden in between the hiding, clothes and unknown things that I don't even know about myself?
"Do you…" he doesn't seem to be able to bring it up. He changes the topic but I don't notice. "Have anything that is… yours?"
"Mine…?" I echo softly.
He clears his throat. "Something that…you can keep all the time. Not money or a … clock but," Swiftly, he takes out something behind the couch and tosses it in my direction. I catch it awkwardly and it stumbles onto my lap. A case the size of my outstretched hands.
I notice right away it's old and worn out, whatever it is. Feeling the texture, the fabric around this case is as cheap as the clothes I wear regularly but at the same time, it's hard. I'm not sure what this is, or what Denim means. There is a clasp located at the side and I push it open to find a small knife surrounded by a layer of protection. Compared to the outer case it's in, I had no idea how clean and new the inside looks. The handle feels leather-like and when I run my finger over the surface, my reflection disfigured by silver glistening metal. The knife is…beautiful and dangerous.
"I can't have this," I mutter while closing the pouch. Placing it on the table, which seems to be the only piece of furniture that has a flat elevated surface. One can only guess the value of this knife.
"Why not? It doesn't seem like anybody's and we prefer hunting knives over daggers – but really, they work the same for us."
He doesn't get it. "It's not mine. Even if I have it, it'll never be mine. Nothing was ever mine."
Denim reaches for the case and places it back into my hands delicately. He says slowly, "I'm giving it to you. Let's say it was mine before, now it's yours."
I can ask this question a million times and still not get a proper answer. "Why?"
I comprehend that he's getting closer but I don't move away. It's like I'm pinned to this chair and I am trapped.
"Because you need it. I feel like you deserve something that's yours. Taylor…" Denim exhales sharply. "To be honest, I never liked that name. Mercedes has to go around and screw everything," realizing what he just said, he starts to flush and ramble on. "You are something valuable to my father alright? The Lights seem to grow an interest in you and he wants to prevent anything from happening. Even I don't know what's going on but he needs you."
"All of a sudden then," I remark bitterly.
A controversial expression crosses his face. "Not necessarily… Maybe you've been important for a long time and never knew."
It's so impossible I laugh for some reason. Not out of surprise but out of my realization of how messed up and worse my life has gotten. "And that would be the explanation for my lifestyle all this time." I stand up and slam the dagger onto my seat. Denim stays where he is and I go up to him. "I am sick and tired of you promising me things – information that I've been waiting for – and just give me some crap I don't need."
He stares at me once again and I get more furious by his silence. "You think I don't already know that? I know that I deserve something for a change; I know that there is reason for me being here. And I know that I don't need help for anyone."
My throat hurts from talking and I'm still not use to it. That night rewinds in my head a thousand times and the only thing I can grasp on to is: that was my last time. "The only thing I need to know is –"
Cold fingertips brush across the side of my face and I shut up. Denim swipes back the strands of hair on my face and the next words I want to say evaporates like air. I want to tell him to stop but it's already done. "You're here," he whispers. "Because of me."
My ferocity towards him is transforms into a sudden calm. "No, it's not."
"How would you know if you don't trust me?" A hint of amusement might have been in his voice but it's now hidden.
"I…believe in what you say," I confess. "But it's going to take some time to start 'trusting' people."
He turns away and the faint moonlight – it has already started to get dark – reflects off his face, making it seem softer, lighter even. "I never hurt you since you came." But what about the others? The people you live with, your family, how can I trust them? "There's no reason not to."
Now my mind has fully processed how little space is left and I feel insecure as well taken aback. "I'm...sorry."
Denim moves away from me and picks up his bow. "No need to be sorry. I should be the one apologizing…for what I've done." He turns around one more time and the green in his idris couldn't be brighter or vibrant. "Sometimes, it's that leap of faith that thrusts you in the direction you want to go in. I'll see you later."
He leaves soundlessly and I can't hear his steps going down the stairs. I stand for a moment and it's so silent I swear I can hear the electricity humming, coursing through the walls. . Thinking back of what just happened, his hand brushing my hair almost felt…comforting. I'm transported to when I was in bed, and someone was stroking my head. Rhythmic, smooth, graceful strokes I've never felt before but makes me feel like that doesn't matter. Her. Someone that loves me.
I wonder if I'm still dreaming.
Ever so slowly, I walk over to that chair in the middle of the room, gingerly picking up the case I had slammed so forcefully over frustration. Then I walk over to the table and stare at the dust. I didn't know why, it was an idea, an urge; I traced it slowly, carefully until it's complete. That's how it looks like? Sighing dejectedly, my palm erases the word and dust soars everywhere. So foolish, I think.
The door clicks shut when I leave and I start my decent down the stairs as soundlessly as he was.
If not for the knowledge of the people living in this house, I wouldn't have guessed at all. I can tell that none of the lights were ever turned on, the vases and pots with plastic trees and the fake art decorating the hallway unsuccessfully seems to look duller. No matter how hard I try, every hallways looks the same.
"Hey Taylor," Vesta greets as she walks with crutches.
"Hey," My mind isn't on her right now. Wrist, hair, what's next? Nothing. Nothing will be next.
Vesta's face turns pale at the sight of the case. "Where did you get that?" Her tone is harsh and forceful.
"I found it," it doesn't seem like telling the truth is a good idea. Just thinking about it makes me nervous and I'm afraid she can tell I'm lying. I blurt out, "and I was bringing it back to Juliette right now!"
After saying Juliette's name, Vesta's voice calms as she leans against the wall. "Yeah, you should. People here get touchy about weapons like that and I wouldn't want you getting into trouble. Juliette is downstairs, she just finished patching me up."
"Are you okay?"
She laughs and her mood lightens. "Sure, I was stupid. Mercedes and Evyn brought me all the way here just to see Juliette. That woman is an amazing nurse. Now, excuse me while I hop on my way out. It's getting late. Cheers!" It doesn't seem like there is an exit the way she's heading but I don't dare stop her.
I enter the guest bedroom. I pause and I can't think of anything to do. Timidly, I walk into the bathroom and eye the shower. Is it safe enough to do this? Am I allowed to do this? The longing to get clean overrides any afterthoughts.
Steaming hot water pours out of the sprout and I gasp by the sound it makes. It's like rain; exactly like rain but warmer. I realize I'm just standing and get to work taking off layers of dirt, grease, and oil off my skin. Weeks, months, possibly years' worth is being taken off. I'd like to stay under the heat forever but my skin is turning pink and the tips of my fingers start to wrinkle. I turn off the tap and I realize how loud the sound of plummeting water is.
Turning off the water, I step out and get new undergarments as Mercedes instructed me before. My hair is wet and dripping but it's satisfying. How long has it been since I haven't showered? Then I remind myself when I fell into that hole with water. Denim saved me…
Digging through the expensive clothing, loose enough jeans are at the bottom of the pile. I'm happy to put something that I am comfortable with. I pull over a large grey hoodie with fainted lettering from the box beneath the closet.
How did Vesta know what was inside the case? I never took it out but it seems to be familiar to her – that tight look and hesitation between each word. Denim said it was always up in that room. Something is definitely going on.
Faith. I've never heard of that word before. A vague remembrance drifts in my mind but I can't explain it farther. Whatever it means, it sounds pleasant. Like after a rainfall during spring. Those have always been my favourite times. The silence of roads. Raindrops that fall into puddles, ripples and reflects the streetlights. I sigh in longing for that one moment again. The only thing I wish for right now.
I must have dozed off in between my thoughts. Sleep doesn't happen frequently and I wish it does. Only possible moments of complete rest are: if you are positive your area is as safe as it can get or you're too tired to stay awake. I can't say over the past few years I've never slept soundlessly or slept happy – because I have – but that is infrequent like finding untouched food at an abandoned bus stop.
The sound of gears shifting arouses me from my sleep and I'm staring face to face with a red-orange light. Or two.