Rae remembered the day she first spoke very clearly as though it was just yesterday when she left for her first mission, and not her fifth. The others had ran to them to celebrate; Eric had tears in his eyes, and Melissa was shocked to the point that when her mouth gaped open, her gum fell out of the orifice. Apparently the girl liked watermelon flavoured gum, since it was a deep red colour. Not that Rae really did want to know. Chael, himself had not moved a single muscle since, and kept his eyes fixed on her with a blank stare. The group relayed the story every time she returned home safely, almost as if that story was a prayer to the gods above for keeping her safe.
So when the black car that she was riding on halted outside a grand apartment complex, she braced herself for the fifth telling of the said story and nodded to the chauffeur in acknowledgement. When she was halfway up the stairs, the car had already driven down the road and was swerving around the corner, out of sight. This apartment had one of the few doors that led to Veritas, one of many other buildings that had been joined to the organisation. Nodding to the security guard, she headed for the lift and pressed the number 'eleven' before the doors closed.
"We are done here, yes?" Chael asked the supervisor who was jotting down notes while staring at the screen that was flashing a million numbers at once.
It took a moment for the lady to glance at him, and when she did, she looked slightly shocked to see him next to her; so engrossed in her work she was. Another moment to smile at her boss and nod, telling him that she would wrap it up here.
"Is Miss Rae returning, sir?" She asked as he walked around the lab gathering his belongings.
He turned a smile her way and nodded, "Finally."
Chael was gone in a second, racing down the stairs with a momentum that a misstep would send him hurtling down the stairs. When he finally arrived at the door that led to the Aquarium Apartments, he wasn't quite shocked to see the three of them gathered around the door like he had seen four times before. And he was always the one who was late.
"And look, the Head of our Intelligence Unit finally what do we owe to this honour?" Eric asked as Chael raced down the stairs to halt next to Rae.
He smiled at the group and rested his eyes on Rae, taking in any damage that she could have had on the mission. Seeing none, he let his grin widen and greeted them. "Sorry I'm late, got held up checking some things."
"I bet you were," Melissa added, glancing at Chael with slight distrust.
"What matters is that we are here now, right? Come on sweetheart, tell us what happened on your mission." Eric entreated as he started to walk towards the dining hall.
Chael took the bags that she had set down upon arriving and settled into a strolling pace next to her. "It's not as if you weren't recording my every move."
Eric smiled at the girl, replying that it was only to watch over his wonderfully beautiful sweetheart. The group sat in their usual booth to the right of the room, and ordered the same meals as they did every time they met here for one of their meals. It was only until most of the other tables cleared around them, that they proceeded to return to their rooms for a much needed sleep. It was already one a.m. by then, and group yawned as the day's events caught up to them. As Chael's and Rae's rooms were on the same floor, the two decided to walk together as they bid the others good night, their footsteps in sync as they walked in silence down the dimly lit halls.
"So, are you enjoying the field experience?" Chael asked lightly as they walked towards the stairs that led to the sleeping quarters.
She shrugged in return, "Not to say that I don't, but it is definitely more invigorating than your unit."
"That sounded like an insult."
"Take it however you wish," she mumbled, the side of her lips quirking into a slight smile.
That earned a small chuckle in response, and Rae felt her lips twitch to expand into an actual smile. She always liked it when Chael laughed, especially if it was for her. Though she did not understand why she felt that way. She supposed that she enjoyed the sound of laughter, something that she could not really feel. Perhaps it was because she was envious of the fact that others could so easily give out a sound so special, that she felt her heart clench. But it had only happened when Chael did so. So-
"God, Rae, stop doing that." Chael entreated, trying to keep his tone light, but failing as Rae turned to glance at him.
Her silver eyes glanced at his face and frowned - something that she had taken to do ever since she met him - seemingly annoyed at something that showed in his features. "Doing what?"
"Well," she gave a short mirthless chuckle here, "Maybe if I stop thinking, I might die?"
"Well," he replied, matching her tone, "Maybe if you stop thinking so much, you might start to enjoy life."
He had obviously said the wrong thing, because she had stopped abruptly and turned to him with what seemed like anger in her features. The first time he had seen it displayed on her features so blatantly too. Why was it that he always was her first for everything; especially the negative ones? He braced himself for the scowl that soon accompanied the scorching glower and told himself that he needed her to wake up and stop living in the past. Which was exactly what he said to her aloud.
"What makes you think that I don't enjoy life?" She asked, narrowing those almost unnaturally bright silver eyes.
"Everything, maybe? Maybe from the way that you scowl so much? Maybe from the way that you can't seem to let go of the past-?"
"The past I cannot remember!" She hissed.
"That's why you move on, Rae. We are in the present now, and-"
"You're not the one who forgot everything before you arrived here." She glared, folding her arms as she frowned.
"And you're not the one haunted everyday by your own past!" He raised his voice a notch, angry that she would think that she was the most worst off in the world.
She gave a small hesitant pause, seeming unsure of herself. So unlike herself that Chael felt himself calming down and the anger dissipate in him to be filled with worry. Why had he snapped at her like that? It wasn't her fault nor her problem in the least. He reached a hand towards her and stopped midway, remembering the first time he touched her, she had had a panic attack.
"Rae?" He asked hesitantly, "Sorry about that, I wasn't-"
"No, no," she shook her head as she said those two words, her frown dissipating as she did so to be replaced by a thoughtful expression, "You're right. I'm living in the past."
She glanced up at him, silver eyes wide and filled with mixed emotions that even he could not decipher. And Chael had considered himself an excellent mind reader after being taught by Eric himself. Not to mention that he had been wearing that face for so long, he could pretty much tell what others were thinking when they wore that face too.
"I'm living in the past," she echoed, sounding more and more shocked.
Chael hesitated, "Rae, I only said it in a moment of pique. Nothing that you should worry about. It's normal that you would try to regain your memories. I mean, who wouldn't, anyway? Why live for fourteen years and not remember anything about it before. It's like your life has gone to..." He trailed off when his mind finally caught up to what his mouth was spouting.
Definitely was not helping with the situation, especially as Rae stood there, frozen with her eyes still that clear, bright silver that was shining like metal.
"Waste. My life has gone to waste." Rae finished, nodding slowly.
"Waste." She replied, as though that word answered everything there was to be answered in the world.
Chael would be lying if he said he wasn't scared to see her that way. It was, after all, concerning that the monotonous girl had finally some expression in her voice that could be called 'wonder'. Not to mention that those eyes were shining with such unnatural emotions. He could lie some more and say that those were the reasons that scared him most, but then he would be the largest damned liar in the world.
Rae was exactly how he was when he first joined Veritas. And that was what scared him the most.
Rae wasn't surprised to see that it was 7 in the morning when she finally decided to get out of bed. After spending the whole night lying on the bed, wide awake, she had finally had a plan of attack. She had only hoped that it would prove to work, or else, well, she doubted that she could let go of the past. Chael was right, she decided, after much deliberation; she was living in the past. A past that she could never remember, and yearned to know of.
As she dressed silently, she wondered about the plan that she had concocted in her head. Even if she did follow through with it, it didn't mean that she was likely to be freed from the nightmares that haunted her every night. And then she would be back to square one, when she awoke at midnight and any point of the day to forget everything that had happened in it. She didn't even know if it was something good or bad. Nightmare seemed to be the best that she could describe it as.
Finishing with the laces on her boots, she headed to the door. She grabbed her black coat on the way, as she had seen the snow that was falling from the sky, and decided that it was very grey and chilly out. When she opened her door though, she did not expect to see Chael outside, with a fist poised to knock on the door, though was now aimed straight at her head. Discombobulated as it seems, Chael lowered his fist and smiled at her. A fake smile, she noted, and nodded back at him.
"Good morning," she greeted, wanting nothing more than to push past him and be on her way.
He nodded at her, and took in her outfit that was to protect her from the blistering wind outdoors. "Where are you going?"
''None of your-" She paused when he saw the worry etched into his features. He shouldn't be worried about her, she hadn't been meaning to make any relati- No, she shook her head internally, this was going against what she had planned to do. What were the hours spent lying on the bed making plans? She decided to be nice to him, after all, this was what she could do at the very least after all that he had done for her.
So she paused and smiled at him, and a concerned frown was given, "I'm going out."
Of course he wouldn't stop short at those questions; he was Chael. She swallowed a sigh and told him that she was taking a car out to do something.
"Yes, I got that, but where to?" He started again, obviously annoyed at her ambiguous answers.
She sighed, this time, her restraint was weak and she knew that he would hound her until a suitable answer was given. "I'm visiting my mother's grave."
Chael nodded, accepting it immediately. It struck Rae as odd when he did that. Was he expecting this answer all along? Her worries were confirmed when he told her that he knew it was only a matter of time before she had requested to visit the graves of her mother and sister.
"How are you going to get there though? You don't have authorised access to the company's vehicles." Chael asked.
"Which was a good thing that you came to me, so to save the trouble of me finding you," she replied, giving a small smirk.
"Ah, of course, I knew that I would come into this equation." Chael nodded sagely, smirking as well.
He nodded his head towards the exit and started to walk towards it, seeming determined to do something. Rae had to take two steps to one of his long strides. "Thanks," she muttered as they were nearing the bridge that led to the other building.
Chael spared a glance at her and smiled, this time, genuinely. "Anything for you."
It seemed all too easy to get a car and to be halfway at her destination. It was all too surreal too, and Rae wondered if she was still dreaming. A quick pinch on the back of her hand told her otherwise. Chael sat in the driver's seat and drove at a leisurely pace, proving to be a smooth driver as he sang along softly to the radio. And a good singer too, she supposed, smooth and velvety voices like his tended to make a good singer.
She looked at her hands that were clasped on her lap and wondered for the umpteenth time if she was doing the right thing, digging up the past so that she could bury it further in the recesses of her mind. But Chael's words haunted her and she knew that he was right, even though he looked very unsure of it after he had said it. She decided that he had had thought about for a long while before actually saying it to her. He must have cared for her. Something warm erupted in her stomach as she thought that, and she savoured the feeling for a while before dismissing it as something unexplained. That seemed to happen every time Chael came into the picture, and she marked it off as him being one of the truest friend that she had ever had.
Not that she had had many friends that she could remember. But she told berated herself for it too, for Chael was right in that too, that she thought about things too much and led her to think the worst of things. So she concentrated on the road as Chael divided his attention between the map laid out on his lap and the road ahead. Taking a turn to the right, they broke off the main road and onto a dirt road that seemed to stretch off into the distance. Was this the place where her family was buried? Rae looked around and saw meadows and flowers erupting all around her, and decided that her family must really like flowers and nature. Rae, however, seemed impartial to anything of that sort.
"So, any memories of this place?" Chael started conversationally, glancing for a second to gauge her expression.
Rae tried with all her might to remember this place and put a name to it, but could not. A sudden feeling of sorrow over took her and she wondered if this place was something that her family held dear. This looked like some private place that not many people would know of; the turnoff from the road was hard to recognise.
"Hey, it's all right if you can't remember it, no one can remember everything that happened in their lives." Chael said, trying to soothe her.
Was she all that easy to read now? She glanced at Chael's smile and returned a small smile of her own. Really, they were infectious. It was only a matter of time before she started smiling as much as Chael did. She swallowed what she was about to snap at him and nodded.
"Look, we have about..." he trailed off and knitted his brows together as he thought, "Ten minutes till we arrive."
She wondered what she felt about it all, and was surprised when she felt a numbing sensation that this was really happening. For something that had bothered her for so long, it took only ten minutes to get ready for. After Chael had led them into an office - presumably his own, as it was almost as spacious as the Boss's himself - and dug out a map and some keys, they had hit the road and were on their way there. She felt cheated when she realised that it was only a half an hour drive from Veritas to the grave.
"All right, brace yourself," Chael warned, and a second later, the vehicle lurched over a high bump that sent things in the back seat bouncing and landing on the ground.
"Sorry 'bout that, we'll have to have no pasta for lunch then." Chael smiled at her sunnily.
"Pasta?" Rae asked warily.
"Oh, yeah, pasta. I ordered some from the dining hall," he mumbled, not looking at her as he concentrated on the road and the map. "Thought we might get hungry, so I brought some picnic."
"Of course you would only think about food."
"Oh, you wound me." Chael replied, smiling.
It was a short while later when the car stopped on an empty spot. Glancing around, Chael turned off the engine and climbed out of the car, taking a gadget in his hand. Rae looked as Chael surveyed the surroundings and glanced down at the gadget cradled in his hand. He glanced back at her and then stalked off towards the north, seeming to know where he was going through the tall flower stalks that must have held beautiful flowers, that had grown to her waist. Pushing back at stalks of different lengths, they walked through the meadows as the stalks only grew taller, obscuring their view somewhat. Rae, not knowing where she was headed, bumped into a solid back only to realise that Chael had stopped.
"All right, here we are," he said gently, turning back to smile at Rae before stepping to the right, letting her see what he was looking at before.
A single large slab of stone was erected from the ground, a wilted ring of daisies crowned the top of it as it cast a shadow on the ground. Snow as heaped on top of the daisy chain and seemed about to squash it to its death. A second one was right next to it, a daisy chain also adorned the stone, with a similar heap of snow. Looking at it now, Rae felt no emotions in her, and for that, she felt remorse for not feeling anything towards the two people who were obviously her family.
She walked towards it slowly, not believing that these two graves were where her last immediate family was housed in. Stopping just before it, she looked at the name engraved into the stone. Alexandra Mae Kingston. Loving Mother to Rae Summer Kingston and Lacie Spring Kingston, Doting Wife to Grant Robert Kingston. Names. All names that she could not remember well. A vague idea that faded if she thought too long on it, unable to put her finger on it to understand what it truly was. That added to her remorse.
She glanced at the picture above her name, and tried with everything to remember something more than The Woman Who Cried By Her Bedside At The Hospital. Unlike other graves she had seen in old movies, this picture was in colour. The lady in it had dark hair that curled long past the edge of the picture, and had bright blue eyes and a ready warm smile that graced her features. Rae could see whom she had inherited her dark hair from, and assumed that it was her father's eyes that she had. Her fingers gently stroked her face, wishing that it was smooth skin that she felt instead of a laminated plastic. It could have been by some sort of force that was at work, but she could suddenly feel her mother's presence around her. In her mind, she could see the woman, alive and with her arms stretched out, as Rae ran to her and her mother picked her up and embraced her. Smiles and laughter were all that she could see in the memory, and she was shocked when it left as easily as it came.
So that was her mother, Rae told herself. The woman that raised her for all those years. The woman she forgot had raised her all those years. A pang of guilt hit her and she felt sorry that it wasn't the fact that she missed her, but the fact that she was guilty of not remember her, that she was sorry. So she turned to the other grave, wanting to remember the girl that lay in the ground too, but once more, meeting the girl's picture, she could not. The golden hair, blue eyes that looked at her were unfamiliar and she may as well have been any other little girl that lived for seven years. Yet she was her younger sister, her younger sister, and she could not remember her? She tried touching the picture as she did her mother's trying to get the same feeling of presence and the same flashback as she had with her mother, but had nothing. Her fingers desperately felt the surface of the picture, but gained nothing but the smoothness of the plastic.
A sound escaped her mouth and she realised that all this time she had been crying, the tears warm as they trekked down her cheeks and soaked into the soil she was kneeling on. She hurriedly wiped her eyes and was staring in muted horror when she found that they had only increased when she did so. There was a gentle tap on her shoulder as Chael handed her a handkerchief and she took without so much of an acknowledgement.
If ever, she felt even more confused. What was she crying for? Who was she crying for? Not remembering her family? Or because she missed her family? Maybe it was because she lost all her memories of them. All those years had been lost. And so she motioned to Chael to pass her the shovel that she had brought along. He shook his head and told her that he could dig, for she was obviously exhausted - he seemed to realise that she hadn't slept the whole night - and she lacked in strength. But she persevered and knew that unless she did this by herself, she could not let it go.
So she begun digging. And when she finished, there was a three metre deep hole by the time the sun had almost gone behind the hills. And when she had finally placed all the soil back, it was well into night, and the only light that they could see by, were the two lanterns that Chael had smartly brought along. How had he known what she was about to do? She placed a stone slab in front of the dug trench, and stuck a picture of herself on. With a marker that she brought out of her pocket, she carefully filled in the details of what she could remember of herself. Her other self, she reminded herself.
It was well into midnight when she finished, and the two were sitting in the warmth of the car after being in the bitter cold of the winter air. THis was it. Rae was finally able to move on. Her old self had died after all, the evidence; the grave that she had set out for herself. And this time, before the tears started trekking down her cheeks, she could admit to herself that she was crying. And that was a human thing to do.