THE EVER-AMBIGUOUS FUTURE
When I opened my eyes, my head swelled with pain at the change in light. For a moment I was uncertain where I was, only that the room was blindingly white and that I seemed to be in a bed. Blinking, I glanced around and tried to gain my bearings.
To my right was a glass door across which curtains were drawn, but I was able to make out the form of two individuals standing with their backs to me on the outside. Who were they? My mind felt tired and groggy, and my head continued to pound. A sound came from behind me, and I shifted and was able to see what looked to be some form of a heart monitor. I relaxed upon seeing it.
I was in a hospital. It was the year 1964. I had escaped from Santiago. I could only hope that the hospital in which I currently resided was within the United States rather than Cuba. I remembered getting to the airport and spotting Air Force One, but anything beyond that escaped me.
When I looked to my left I saw there was a man present in a small, uncomfortable-looking arm chair. He appeared to be asleep. I shifted, trying to make myself more comfortable, but when I did, a searing pain shot up from my midsection and emanated outward like a lightning bolt. Reactively, I sobbed and sank back against the bed. The man in the chair was awake in an instant, leaning over me and speaking to me.
Vaguely, through the anguish of my apparent injury, I was able to identify him as President John Kennedy. Seeing him helped quell some of the hidden anxiety within me, for it meant he was alive, that he had survived the situation in Cuba. My eyes followed him as he adjusted a bag of liquid hanging on a rack next to my cot. My abdomen throbbed and had I not been certain doing so would have hurt me even more, I would have vomited. After a moment, the pain lessened and I exhaled. The President pulled his chair closer to the cot and leaned his elbows on the mattress next to me. My eyes traveled upward until they were able to focus on his face.
"Morphine," he indicated with a tilt of his head in the direction of the bag, answering my unspoken question. I thought I saw him smile, but he looked so exhausted and disheveled that I wasn't quite sure. Though I was certain he had been sleeping prior to my own awakening, the bags under his eyes told a different story altogether. I wondered how long he had been there in the room with me.
"Are you hurt Sir?"
The sound of my own voice surprised me, for it was raspy and hoarse as though it hadn't been used in days. I saw the President raise his eyebrows and then felt his hand pat me gently on the shoulder through the sheets covering me.
"You are the one in the hospital bed, Miss Morris," he replied promptly, and I was able to detect a hint of incredulousness in his tone. "Yet still you are more concerned with my well-being than your own. I think, Miss Morris, that I have finally answered my earlier question as to which of us is more brave and which of us is the fool." His hand moved upward now, fussing with a few stray strands of my hair. I would have shivered, but the morphine melted it away.
"And what is your determination?" I inquired, and then coughed painfully.
"I was wrong when I implied you were unfit to serve in my security detail, Miss Morris," he began softly, his palm cupping one side of my face so that his thumb could brush comfortingly along my cheekbone. "To have done what you did at my request, and to have had it go so very wrong...You are, in fact, quite brave. I was a fool not to have trusted you."
I felt the weight of the grey-green eyes as they settled upon my own then. There was something present there that I hadn't seen in them before. Ordinarily, the man would have been more guarded and formal in his dealings with me. Ordinarily he would have looked upon me as a lower being, interesting but not yet worthy of his full attention. Ordinarily there would have been a healthy dose of frustration contained within the strange hue of his eyes, brought on by his sense of duty toward Jackie and his confusing affinity with me. Now, though, the emotions I witnessed were nothing short of steadfast and determined, his affections for me realized and his desires to act upon them were now left uncontested. Something in the events in Santiago had fundamentally changed our relationship, and where I once would have felt uncertain and even frightened, I now felt nothing of the sort.
I didn't know what was going to happen—I couldn't know what was going to happen—by taking the actions I had taken to save the 35th President of the United States. The world now was an entirely different place than the one I had read so much about prior to my coming here. It was on its own newly blazed pathway to a new future. I didn't know what consequences would be waiting for me on the roads I would travel. I didn't know what would happen to me, or to President Kennedy. I didn't know if the past would continue to attempt to right itself, or if it would finally yield to the new trails uncovered. The future was a frightening concept, but I reminded myself that as human beings we were never intended to know the fate of another, least of all that of our own. I would do what I could to keep the man beside me alive, even if that meant risking my life in the process. I felt a hand behind my shoulder help me to sit up in the cot.
John Kennedy kissed me then, his actions gentle but insistent and, as I softened to his touch I wondered if I had actually changed our futures at all. I wondered if it had always been my fate to find the gateway and save John Kennedy. I wondered, as he pressed his forehead against mine and closed his eyes, if the events I had thought were consequences had really been intended for me all along. Why had I felt so strongly the need to go through the gateway to save a man I did not know? What purpose would that afford to me, as an individual, when at my mission's completion I could not return to reap the benefits? How had the past managed to bring us together after that fateful day in November, and why? When he opened his eyes again, I felt tears rolling freely from my own.
For, he was the 35th President of the United States, and as he stood at my bedside, idly stroking my hair, I knew we were in this together. The past was unyielding, but the future was not concrete. John Kennedy's path could not differ from its intent without a voice to help it change along the way. And I, I was the voice of that change, commissioned by the unyielding past which had needed to take a life that November day, and persuaded by the knowledge of the ever-ambiguous future.
A/N: There you have it! I hope you all have enjoyed this story, brief and screwy though it is. I may go back and change a few things later on so that the ending makes a bit more sense, but for now my focus will be on my latest piece, Corzibar & Oleria. If you're a fan of action/adventure/romance with an underlying military-esque setting, and if you liked this short story, I think you will like that one as well! Thank you to everyone who read and favorited this. Happy New Year!