Author's Note - So this is my very first National Novel Writing Month project, and is a story that I've been sitting on for about two years now. Because it's NaNo, I'm telling my inner editor to take a hike, so I'm sorry for any typos or really obvious errors. I don't have the time to edit, and to be my usual nit-picky self. But anyway, I hope you enjoy this, and please leave a review to let me know what you think!
"A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n."
John Milton, Paradise Lost
The overwhelming sense of triumph carried her up to a state of awareness, and the first thing that she saw was the colours. They exploded across her vision, causing her to squint as the brilliance blinded her. Deep blues, fiery reds, and blinding whites. Then came the explosions, shattering the air around her with their deep booms and hissing cracks. As an awareness of her surrounds began to sink in, she noticed the people that surrounded her, pressing in on all sides. She was standing in the middle of a crush of people that were crowded around a harbour front, all looking towards a bridge that was shaped like a coat hanger.
"Happy New Years!" The shout rang out from the hundreds of people that were pressed together near the water, and looking up at the exploding lights once more, she realised that they were fireworks. They were racing along the top of the bridge, cascading from below, and shooting up from the pair of pillars that stood at each end. And there, in the very centre of the bridge, was a single lit up word, written in a flowing script, and burning bright for all to see.
"Eternity," she mumbled to herself, reading the word. It seemed to hold a heavy weight to it, and it tugged at something deep inside of her. It made her feel uneasy, and yet she wasn't sure why. The only things she could remember feeling were desperation followed by triumph. And yet the word made her uneasy, so much so that she turned away, not wanting to see it anymore.
"So much for the world ending," she heard someone say, and several people laughed. "The Y2K bug can kiss my arse!" The group of drunken people started cheering at the top of their lungs, and she turned away from them too, wincing at the noise. The harbour front was too crowded, and she was feeling quite confused and disorientated. Pushing her way through the masses of people, she stumbled along a walkway that went through a building, and looked to be the entrance to the train station that was above her. Jogging through, she found herself out on the street, and without so much as a backwards glance at the harbour, she disappeared into the city beyond. No one at the party knew who she was, and no one even noticed that she was gone.
The flight to Los Angeles had been long and boring, and Karrin had spent most of it trying her best to sleep. However, the snoring of the rather portly gentleman seated next to her, and the incessant kicking from the small child that was seated behind her, had made this an almost impossible endeavour. So when she finally touched down at two in the afternoon local time, Karrin was tired, grumpy, and in desperate need of a shower. No matter how many times she flew, she always ended up hating the entire experience by the time she landed at her destination, and would practically claw at the doors to be let off.
One life-threatening cab ride later, she had checked into a hostel in downtown L.A., where she had crashed out asleep on the rather think mattress, with a pillow that was so soft that it was pointless even having one. But she honestly didn't care; she could finally sleep in peace.
As usual when she slept, Karrin dreamed, and it held certain themes and images that had haunted her for years. The dreams always seemed to be set in a period setting that, as close as she could guess, was the eighteenth century. And there was always fire involved somewhere. Sometimes it was just a fireplace crackling away, but other times it was a raging blaze that was consuming a building that she was trapped inside of. The worst ones were when she herself was burning. She always felt so trapped and so alone, but there was always a voice that seemed to reach out to her. Calm and reassuring, it was male with an accent that she couldn't place; yet it always made her feel safe and loved, and in the midst of the fire, she always longed to hear it.
Karrin awoke when a door slammed and a light was flicked on above her. She rolled over to see another girl standing before her, arms loaded with clean sheets and a duffle bag on her shoulder, frowning down at her in confusion.
"I'm sorry, but I thought that this was my bed?" she said, and Karrin sat up with a yawn, glancing out of the window and seeing that the sun had set. Her watch told her that it was after eight.
"That's okay, I'm leaving anyway," she hastily said as she gathered up her satchel bag. The canvas bag with the patches and messily stitched up holes carried within it everything that she owned, so she was up and out of the room before the other girl could even protest. Taking the lift down to the foyer, she stepped out onto the street and stood for a moment breathing in the night air, before she picked a direction and started walking.
The warm night air caught at her blonde hair, blowing the pixie-cut strands into her green eyes. Unconsciously she kept trying to tuck the offending strands behind her ear as she walked down North Main Street, watching the city skyline. Above the buildings not a single star could be seen, save for the biggest and brightest, and it was one of the things that Karrin hated about cities – their lights drowned out the stars.
She was walking northeast, following the street when she saw something that caught her interest – the Los Angeles mall, opposite City Hall. She contemplated the towering City Hall building for a second, but then veered right and headed towards the mall. Ducking behind a security guard, Karrin let herself in and headed for the elevator, riding it up to the top floor. Stepping out, she located the roof access door and started up the stairs. She could feel the smile tugging at her lips as she rounded a corner, heading up the last flight. Crashing through the door, Karrin jogged towards the edge of the building, drinking in the night time city from on high. The city of Los Angeles was spread out all around her, and she felt as giddy as a little girl as her eyes took everything in.
Turning to look in another direction, Karrin saw something that made her freeze in her tracks. Off to her left there was a man standing on the wall that ran around the edge of the square roof, looking out over the city, and more worryingly, looking straight down. He appeared young; perhaps around twenty-five, with shoulder length hair that at first glance looked to be black, and yet the lights of the city showed that it had a reddish tinge to it. He was wearing blue jeans and a leather jacket, with his black Converse shoes toeing the edge of the wall.
Biting her lip, Karrin approached him slowly, holding her arms out as if she wanted to grab him, and once noticed, the man turned almost lazily towards her. In the darkness it was hard to tell what colour his eyes were, but they looked unbearably sad as they fixed themselves upon her. Karrin gulped.
"Hey, what are you doing up here?" she asked, at a complete loss as to what else she should say. Something in his eyes seemed to change as they took in her appearance – wind blown blonde hair, worried green eyes, her pale face flushed from her sprint up the stairs, with her blue jeans and red tank top clinging to her lithe frame – but then he chuckled as his gazed drifted back out over the city. Karrin crept a little closer.
"I am admiring the view," he replied lazily, and not without a hint of sarcasm. His voice was smooth, and his American tones sounded like they were only just starting to creep into his otherwise European accent. It was not dissimilar to her own, except her accent was punctuated by an acquired Australian broadness.
"Don't you think that you could admire it just as well from down here with me?" she asked, trying to sound as non-threatening as possible. Wasn't that what you were supposed to do in these situations?
The young man laughed quietly, as if at a joke that only he understood. "Are you worried that I might fall?" he asked, and Karrin scowled.
"Aren't you?" she countered, and the man slowly shook his head.
"I am more worried that I won't," he replied, leaving Karrin baffled. And then he sighed as he pivoted on the spot, turning his back on the glimmering lights of L.A., fixing now curious eyes onto her. "Why are you up here?" he asked, and Karrin shrugged.
"Just admiring the view," she replied, and the man smirked at her. Karrin gasped in fright as he suddenly leapt into the air, and yet he landed safely before her. Karrin breathed a sigh of relief.
"Did you think that I was going to jump?" he asked, and Karrin nodded. "If I were going to jump, I would have done so a long time ago," he added almost wistfully, before that strange look came over his face again, and he smiled at her as if he knew something that she didn't. "But I can hardly jump now that you are here."
"Right, before that would just be rude. Not to mention the trauma you'd be putting me through," Karrin countered, and the young man laughed; a deep little chuckle that made her flush all over again. "What was your name, anyway?" she asked, trying to mover the conversation away from jumping off of buildings.
"Dain," he replied. "It's short for Danian. And you?" he asked, and he seemed almost eager to hear what her name was all of a sudden. Karrin was just glad that he was no longer up on the wall, and had his back to the edge.
"Karrin," she replied with a smile, and Dain nodded.
"Tell me, Karrin," he started, and something about the way that he said her name made her shiver with delight. "Do you come here often?"
Karrin laughed. "That is the worst pick up line ever."
"Oh, I am not trying to pick you up. I'm just curious. Trust me, if I were trying to pick you up, my choice of words would be a lot more … irresistible," he replied, and Karrin gulped as his eyes stared down into hers. Now that she was closer, they looked blue, and as deep as pools. Karrin could feel herself drowning in their depths, and had to look away.
"Okay, well this is my flight night in L.A. I wasn't even planning on coming here," she explained, and Dain seemed intrigued by this information.
"Really?" he asked, and Karrin nodded, nervously trying to tuck her short hair behind her ear again. He was watching her so intensely, like he was trying to see through her, and although it was uncomfortable, she also didn't want to leave. She wanted to stay and talk to him, to find out more about him, and if possible, find a way to make him say her name again. He made it sound like it was the most beautiful name in the world.
"I was planning on going to New York, and I had my itinerary all worked out, but then at the last minute I decided to come to the City of Angels instead. I'm still not really sure why," she explained, leaning on the wall that, only minutes earlier, Dain had been standing on.
"And where were you before that?" Dain asked, joining her in leaning against the wall.
"Sydney, Australia," she replied, and standing this close to him, Karrin was now certain that Dain's eyes were dark blue. "But I travel a lot," she added, and Dain quirked an eyebrow, silently asking her to elaborate. "I lived in Australia for a while, and it's a place that I love to go back to. To be honest, I've pretty much been everywhere. From Australia to Japan, Africa to England. I've trekked through Nepal, drank coffee in Paris, and paddled down the Amazon River."
"Why do you travel so much?" Dain asked, and Karrin frowned as she thought about it. She always hated talking about herself, and why she did the things that she did, but talking to Dain somehow seemed easier. Like she could tell him all of her strange secrets, and he wouldn't think any differently of her. Perhaps he would even have some strange secrets of his own to share with her in return.
"I don't really know. I don't have any family, so maybe I've just been trying to find a place that I can call home. I loved living in Sydney, but somehow it just never felt right to me, like there was somewhere else that I was supposed to be," she explained, watching the lights from the cars passing by down below.
Dain was silent for a long time, and Karrin was beginning to feel self conscious, when he finally spoke. "I think that L.A. is going to be the start of something new for you," he said, and Karrin smirked at him.
"Oh yeah? And what makes you say that?" she asked, and Dain smiled; a gently turning of his lips that gave his features a softer appearance.
"Because you've found your way here, like a lost Angel returning home," he said, and his words seemed to resonate right through her very soul. She couldn't explain it, but she knew somehow that his words were very true. Los Angeles was indeed going to be the start of something new for her. Karrin just wasn't sure what that something new was yet, and the way that Dain was looking at her made her think that he knew something that she didn't. It gave her a weird feeling in the pit of her stomach.
Next to her, Dain breathed out heavily, pushing away from the wall. "I should go," he said, and Karrin turned to face him questioningly. "Oh, don't worry. My urge to jump off of high places has since passed."
"Oh, well, good," Karrin said, and Dain smiled at her awkwardness.
"Perhaps we will see each other again later," he said, and as Karrin nodded, Dain turned and walked away. Stepping into the stairwell, he closed the door and leaned his back against it, breathing deeply. His hands were trembling slightly, and he curled them into fists to stop the shaking. Any longer with that girl and he knew that he would have said something that he would have regretted. But still, the fact that she was here, in L.A., was enough to make his stomach clench in knots. He didn't know what to do, but he knew one thing for certain – he would be seeing her again.