Where You are; Where You're Going

"Are you ready yet?"

His soft voice seems to vibrate in the dead silence of night as they stand alone in the murky darkness of the damp ally way.

Mikel leans up against one side of the dingy wet walls the roughness of the brick building fazing him in no way at all. He checks his pocket watch again for the umpteenth time that night…

His terse frown deepens.

He seemed to always be running behind.

Closing the watch with a snap he pockets the ticking device inside his long dark trench coat before turning back to his momentary company.

She's crouched down her head lowered between her knees and her arms wrapped tightly about her slightly heavy set frame.

From behind oval wired glasses dark brown eyes watch her with a mix of pity and anxiety.

For a moment nothing is said between them.

Finally he tries again, "Teresa…?"

"What!" She snaps lowly her head still lowered away.

"Are you ready yet?"

For a moment it again seems that she is going to refuse his answer but then she speaks,

"…No. Not until…"

Mikal watches expectantly, "Not until…?"

Slowly Teresa raises her head to stare ahead at the other side of the ally. Her gaze dismal and listless, "Just not yet…"

Mikal stares before slowly nodding. "Okay." He says in a quick chirp.

Silence again ensues.

Mikal pushes himself from off the wall; he moves to lean against one foot. Then he shifts against the other. He continues this action for a bit then he moves toward the other side of the ally to lean against that wall.

He crosses his arms against himself and looks about his surroundings. He begins to tap his foot in anxiety.

Slowly Teresa raises her gaze to rest on him in irritable annoyance.

Mikal uncrosses his arms and shoves his hands in his pockets.

He retracts one hand to run through his short curly dark hair.

He brings that hand down to rub lightly behind his neck.

He releases a light breathy sigh.

He again crosses his arms.

Teresa glares at him.

Whether he notices or is truly oblivious to her annoyance is hard to tell for he then pushes himself off the wall again and moves to stand in the midst of the large ally way.

He looks around again in light interest of the dark and unappealing scene then he places his hands back within his pockets and begins mildly shifting from foot to foot.

He crosses his arms…he un-crosses them.

"Will you sit the fuck down and quit moving so goddamn much already?"

Teresa growls in a low tone filled with malice.

Mikal looks to her in slight surprise, "Huh…? Ah…excuse me?"

"Sit down motherfucker! What are you pacing so much for anyway? You're beginning to make me tired!"

Mikal stares in slight shock for a moment before quickly catching himself and moving to lean back in his first earlier position against the wall.

"Er…sorry…"

"Damn." Teresa hisses in annoyance with a roll of her eyes before allowing her head to fall back to rest between her knees.

For a moment he is still. Then he crosses his arms against his self again.

Mikal chances a timid side glance down to the girl crouched on the ground.

He wasn't used to girls like Teresa…she almost frightened him.

He began to rock lightly against the ball of his heels.

This movement creating just the softest noises against the graveled concrete.

It's enough to force Teresa to lift her head up and glare dully at him.

He instantly stops his actions.

Teresa's face is horribly banged up. Two black-eyes bruises all over her face, her nose is slightly sided and there is blood falling from her nostrils and her lips.

Her midnight black hair was askew as it fell in mini-braids down past her shoulders. She had dark skin and chubby baby-fat like cheeks.

He uncrossed his arms before quickly fitting his hands in his pockets.

His eyes shift to the side away from her.

He quickly began to speak, "Do you…I mean…does it…ah…" Only to realize he has nothing to say.

Teresa must have really been great at giving people superior looks of exasperation because even through her bloodied and bruised look Mikal still felt small.

"What? What the hell did you just say?"

"Um…Does it…I mean does it still…" He pointed making a slight circular motion around his face area indicating what he meant, "Does it…hurt…?"

A very stupid question that Mikel already knew the answer to.

Teresa stared at him in angry disbelief. Then she looked away with a scoff and a light shake of her head,

"Damn you stupid."

Then slowly she moved to stand up being sure to quickly cross her arms over her slightly plump belly.

Mikel quickly lowered his gaze away.

Teresa wore a snug fitting pink tube-top, a very short jean mini skirt, mid-thigh black tights and red pumps.

Her clothes were slightly dirty and her tights had rips and skidding tears going up most of the calf section.

On her hands she wore silver bangles that chimed together with nearly every movement she made and around her neck she wore a black choke-hold necklace with studs decorated around it.

She gives a sharp breathy laugh before replying, "I must've hit the jackpot or something for them to send you out." She gives another breathy laugh and then it becomes a dark chuckle.

She looks to Mikel with a grin on her blood stained lips and cries out, "You hear that boy! We got us a real winner right here!" She points to herself.

And then her laughter becomes a strange mix of laughter and sobbing.

Mikel's gaze stays lowered, he shifts from one side to the other.

Then quietly he speaks, a phrase he's so sick and tired of using but the only one he ever finds appropriate,

"I'm sorry."

And Teresa is quick to retaliate, "Sorry doesn't fucking do anything!"

Her scream seems to envelope them in a harsh reality that overtakes the calmness of the night.

It leaves him tense and forlorn and it leaves her sobbing uncontrollably.

She looks away as she covers her hand with her face because she assumes she already looks hideous enough…she doesn't need to add crying onto the plate.

And he doesn't want to upset her further…so it is with caution he speaks.

"It'll get better."

It takes a while for her quavering voice to make it to him over her muffled cries, "How do you know…?"

There is just the faintest hint of harshness in her tone.

Mikel allows his troubled gaze to rest everywhere but on her.

He doesn't really want to answer that question.

But then Teresa asks again, this time more gently, "How do you know…?"

It is then Mikel does look to her.

Their eyes lock. He realizes they share the same dark brown gaze.

His gut twists almost guiltily…because he really doesn't want to tell her.

He really doesn't want to admit he doesn't know.

But this is the first time she's ever looked to him so pleading and innocent he can't help but answer with,

"Because I know."

This really doesn't answer anything. Her gaze becomes more questioning and he looks away in shame.

Silence and then, "Are you ready yet?"

She takes her time before answering, "No."

He can almost feel the viberation of the pocket-watch as it continues to tick on within his pocket.

She's composed herself only slightly and he finds himself fingering the pocket-watch within his trench coat.

In the distance they hear police sirens. It's not the first time they've heard them.

Just to make any form of communication Mikel speaks, "Rough neighborhood."

Teresa's gaze shifts to him then lowers away, she mutters darkly under her breath.

Mikel can't really make out her words but he's pretty sure part of her dialog referred to him being a punk.

But he's not quite sure.

"What were uh…what were you doing out here…alone?"

The corner of Teresa's lips quaver ever so slightly before she gives out a mocking laugh, "Seriously?"

She looks to him with a dark and bloody serpent smile and there is suddenly nothing innocent about her at all.

They both know what she had been doing out here at this hour dressed the way she was.

Mikel speaks, "You look young."

With an almighty air about her Teresa replies, "So do you."

It's his turn for amusement as he gives a light chuckle, "I promise you I'm anything but."

Slowly…ever so slowly Teresa's smile slips away, "I believe that."

A sad smile pulls against his features, "Do you?"

She gives a heavy sigh looking away from him, "After tonight I could believe anything!"

There is silence between them and then.

"So what happens now?"

It was asked in a quiet and timid voice that he was sure before tonight she had never once used.

Mikel answered the same way he always did, "You can't stay here. You have to leave."

The arms she still keeps wrapped tightly around herself tighten, "And go where?"

He lowers his glasses rimmed gaze to the ground before honestly speaking, "I don't know."

Teresa stares at him in slight shock, "What the hell do you mean 'You don't know'? You've done this before haven't you?"

Mikel quickly replies, "I can't…go there with you…I can only…help you get started."

When Teresa continues to stare at him in disbelief Mikel adds, "It's…it's sort of what I do…what we do. We find you and then we open up the door for you to cross over and whatever happens after that is-"

"What the fuck! Hold on! What do you mean 'whatever happens after that'! What the hell's gonna happen to me!"

Mikel opens his mouth then quickly closes it shut with uncertainty.

He tried again, "Well…according to the rules it depends on the life you lived and the actions you chose."

Teresa continued to stare, "The life I…! You're bullshitting me right? This is fucking bullshit! And what do you mean 'rules'! Who's rules!"

Mikel furrowed his brows lowering his gaze away from her.

Teresa scowled. He almost made it seem as though she should've already known the answer to this one.

"We…well the rules of death…of course."

Teresa began to breath heavily almost heaving gasps forcing her to bring one of her hands down to prop herself up against her knee.

Mikel made out the bloody arm.

"Are you okay…?" He asked watching her closely.

"Shut…shut the fuck up!"

So he did.

...

Later he asks again, "Are you ready yet?"

She's leaning against the ally way wall looking out to the streets glaring at nothing in particular.

He reaches into his trench coat and pulls out the pocket watch. He looks to it momentarily then snaps it shut and pockets it again.

When he looks back to her he tenses to find her glare suddenly on him.

"Just where the hell you gotta be? I know you ain't got a date."

He shifts awkwardly, "No…nothing like that…"

"Then what you keep sweatin' me for!"

He lowers his gaze, "I'm…very busy tonight."

Teresa stares and slowly but surely a look of dawning overcomes her features, "Oh…shit." She mutters lowering her gaze to the ground, "So like…you gotta go-"

"Is it family?" Mikel asks suddenly quickly re-gaining Teresa's gaze.

Under her questioning expression he slowly explains, "Some…some hold back because of unfinished business…family, friends…maybe a boy?"

An amused smirked now graced Teresa's lips and she seemed mildly amused with the suggestion…which isn't something Mikel got often when he made that offer to most of his clients.

She answered flamboyantly, "Nah…I don't care for any of that." Her tone was just on the edge of laughter. She continued to watch him closely then as though she suddenly found him as a source of entertainment.

He retracted his hands from inside his pockets and crossed his arms unsurely shifting from one side to the other.

"Uh…some people…you know can't move on cause-"

"I guess I'm not 'some people' am I fool? Does it look like I have friends? Does it look like I give a damn about my family? What are you retarded?"

Mikel lowered his gaze; nervously he spoke, "Are you…scared?"

Teresa glared she opened her mouth with an angry comment on the tip of her tongue but paused suddenly at the thought.

She thought about his words carefully then with an air of uncertainty asked, "Should I be scared…?"

Mikel shrugged, "I've never seen what's beyond that door…" he looked everywhere except at her.

"But I think…I would be scared…"

She angrily hissed, "What you mean, if you were me? Fuck you I may have done some messed up shit but I don't-!"

"I mean if I were anyone!" He cried out over her instantly silencing her.

He looked to her then quickly to the ground, "I'm not judging you."

She glared at him in slight disbelief, "Oh really? You ain't judging me?" She made to move closer toward him instantly putting the young man on edge, "Do you know what I've done? What I…had to do to?"

She paused, her glare lowered to the ground almost as though in thought. Her arms loosened about herself and a liquid crimson ran from her arms and dripped on the floor.

"I've made so many mistakes…too many mistakes."

"I'm sorry." Mikel says again.

Teresa closed her hate filled eyes tight and breathed in deep.

He continues, "But I…I mean if your life was so bad here…then you should really have no fear of moving on."

Slowly her eyes opened and against her will tears escaped.

"What if it's worse…?" She spoke in the smallest voice Mikel had to strain to hear.

"What if it's worse than here? I can't…I don't want to leave here if I…if I don't know what's waiting for me on the other side."

For a long moment nothing but quite sobs and silence fills the air.

Then Mikel speaks, "You're not going to hell…if that's what you believe in."

She looks to him questioningly, she doesn't voice her question between her tears but she doesn't have to.

He answers anyway, "Because you were already living it."

He takes a guarded step closer to her,

"Where you're going can never be as bad as where you once were."

And suddenly Mikel was larger than Teresa and life itself and suddenly he was the stronger out of the two.

She swallowed thickly, "How can you be sure?"

Mikel smiles and offers out a simple upturned hand,

"I think I may be asking too much of you, but please…trust me."

And because she could not think of anything to say in return, because she was still crying and torn and dead and nothing in the world was ever going to bring her back, because she was very uncertain she wanted to go back anyway…and because she can't remember the last time someone asked for her trust or that she had given it…

She allowed death to take her cold bloody hand.

Teresa still isn't ready though.

Not until they find her the next day behind a dumpster not until the scene is crossed off with tape and there are flashing cop cars and police swarming the place and they have determined her cause of death as a knife wound to the stomach.

The one Teresa still couldn't seem to get to stop bleeding even in death.

Not until they have finally made her decent by covering her exposed body from view with a blanket as they awaited the ambulance to arrive is she ready.

"I couldn't leave it at that…I just wanted them to cover it up…make me just a little bit decent."

Mikel nods in understanding.

Everyone has their own reason for hanging on…even for the little things like that.

He fingers the pocket-watch in his long dark overcoat it had long since stopped ticking. His other hand holds more securely to Teresa's cold dead one.

No one can see them as they weave through the crowd of M.E's and Policemen and curious onlookers. Soon they've excited the alley and left the crowd far behind them and there in the midst of the city looking highly out of place and curious is a simple door.

Teresa quickly realizes it is her door.

And as they make their way toward it Mikel looks down to her and for one last time asks,

"Are you ready?"

She takes her time before answering.

"Yeah…I am."

And through her bloody and beaten look she smiles and for the first time in a long time it is real.

~Fin~