“A Wheel that turns according to a Law.
The Cause-Effect and the Compensation.
The Beginning of a New Tide.
The Awakening of a New Storm.”
- The Prophet of Truth
Sarah woke up with the sound of the phone ringing. Still half asleep she almost knocked the phone down before she could pick it up. Her gaze flew to the digital clock on her bedside table. It was almost nine-thirty.
“Sarah? Hi. This is John. How have you been?”
She found herself taking a deep breath before answering, while wondering why unpleasant things always had to follow one another.
“Good morning, John,” she made sure she spoke the words clearly.
John Donovan was one of her working colleagues at the Hillman Cancer Center from the University of Pittsburgh. They were both part of one of the research teams working on DNA regeneration, which meant that a daily coexistence was inevitable. However, and although she’d made it clear she wasn’t interested in anything more than a healthy working relationship, John was annoyingly persistent in his ideas of establishing a much closer and personal connection. In fact, John was an expert in ‘closer connections’, and Sarah didn’t feel the least bit inclined to integrate his vast and famous list of love conquests, which had led her strive to keep what she called a ‘safe distance’ from him.
“Everything’s fine, thank you. What can I do for you?” she asked in her most professional tone, even though she knew that, like always, he’d pretend he hadn’t noticed it.
“Just wanting to know how you’re doing. I was worried. You never called or anything!” he accused and Sarah sighed as she prayed for patience in order to be able to cordially deal with this egocentrically man.
“Things just haven’t been easy. And I still have lots of matters to attend to.”
“Because of the case for Selena’s custody?”
Sarah was silent for a moment. How had he found out about that? She had just been notified the day before that her aunt and uncle had legally requested for her sister’s guardianship!
“That too,” she hurriedly replied wanting to put an end to that phone call as soon as possible. “Anyway, I’ll probably be back to work next week.”
“Why don’t we get together for lunch? We could talk about that. I’m sure I can help you. Besides, the boss wants me to watch over your project while you’re on leave and there are a few things I wanted to discuss with you. Just to be sure I’m interpreting your methodology correctly. After all, it would be a shame to waste an entire test battery because of some misunderstanding, right?”
And that almost sounded like a threat, Sarah thought with a sigh as she ran a hand through her disheveled hair.
“Lunch is impossible, John. I’m meeting with my lawyer.”
“Dinner then,” he decided in a tone that made it impossible to refuse. It was that or probably have to redo everything, once she got back to work. Besides being a manipulative bastard, John had always had a knack for petty revenges. Like most researchers, he hated losing and she knew him well enough to know that he dealt poorly with rejection.
“Seven-thirty, the usual place,” she conceded, trying to hide her unwillingness to meet him.
“Jeez, Sarah! Can’t we meet somewhere else? What’s the fun in having dinner where we’re always meeting with working colleagues to discuss research projects?”
“It’s in hand for the both of us, and since I won’t be able to stay for long, it’s perfect. I still want to go and see Selena tonight,” Sarah replied, this time clearly impatient, and a sigh echoed from the other side of the line telling her he wouldn’t push it any further, which was in itself kind of odd.
“As you wish, then. I’ll meet you there.”
Sarah was truly happy to finally be able to put down the phone. Once more, and just like the day before, her day promised to be a living hell.
She got up and made her way to the bathroom, her bare feet against the cold tiles of the floor. Leaning over the sink she stared at her own image in the mirror. Her brown-greenish eyes were bloodshot and surrounded by dark purplish circles. Her light-brown hair that reached just below her shoulders was standing in the strangest directions, which made her straighten it with her fingers before washing her face.
The cold water drove away the drowsiness that still roamed in her brain, completely bringing her back to the hard, harsh reality that her life had become. For an instant she felt tempted to neglect last night’s events as just another bad dream. She already had so much to deal with. But, no matter how much easier it would be to just deny everything, she couldn’t avoid the fact that a dangerous looking stranger had been there, inside her house. That he had searched through her purse, knew her address and could very well have stolen credit card numbers or even made a copy of her keys. And so the first thing to do was to contact the bank and alert them for what had happened, and change the lock on her front door. Everything else she might as well forget. Although there were a lot of unanswered questions regarding the mysterious Alexis, she couldn’t possibly add another problem to her already chaotic life. She’d probably never see him again, anyway. And besides it was highly probable that he was mixed up in some shady business related with drug trafficking or something like that, which was in its own more than enough reason to erase him from her mind altogether.
She grabbed a pair of jeans from the closet, since the clothes from the night before were too dirty to be worn again, and put on a white wool sweater with a V neckline. Knowing it was bound to be cold outside she added a brown suede coat. She was about to put on her tennis shoes, the same ones she’d worn the day before, when she remembered the sound of the rubber soles squishing on all that blood, and immediately decided otherwise. Sooner or later she’d have to either clean them or throw them away, but right then she just didn’t want to have to deal with that as well.
A few minutes later her boots’ high-heels echoed in the kitchen as the coffee machine fumed.
Sarah checked the several documents regarding all the bureaucratic matters she still had to attend and put them back in her briefcase with a sigh. She hated losing time in public departments and having to deal with those kinds of matters. If it weren’t for Selena, she’d have probably ended up refusing the inheritance just so she didn’t have to go through any more papers. Besides implying a huge waste of time, it only served to make sure her painful memories remained alive, burning hot-red in her heart.
The cottage in the mountains. The land in the North that had belonged to her grandparents. The loans. The bank accounts. The sharing of everything else between the remaining family and the changing of addresses in every official document. She’d spent the last three days dealing with things like these and there was still a lot to do!
Before that there had been the funeral arrangements, the music, the flowers, the notifications. The spiral that had suddenly swallowed her was endless. Not to mention the constant calls to know if she was okay, if she needed anything, since everyone seemed to feel sorry for her - the sole survivor of a terrible, tragic accident. For crying out loud! She’d even received calls from people she hadn’t seen since high school! And so she hadn’t been able to spend as much time as she wanted with Selena, who had been sent to live at a family friends’ house for a few days; distant cousins from her mother’s side, that had offered to watch over her during those difficult times. And now there was the matter of Selena’s custody ...
She’d have to talk with Selena about that too, since she probably still didn’t know. Sarah knew that the her baby sister wouldn’t be the slightest bit happy with the news, which had led her to decide to go and see her personally that night. She could easily foresee the drama that would ensue the moment Selena learned that there was a probability that she’d end up living with her aunt, which not only meant moving but also changing schools. Selena would never willingly accept something like that. She’d even been terminally opposed to selling their parents’ house. How could they force her to move out now, after all she’d been through? Besides, Sarah wasn’t the slightest bit inclined to lose another family member. That was a fight she just couldn’t lose! And so she had to have everything in order by the time they called her to stand at the family court. She’d have to prove she was more than capable to manage a house, earn enough money to sustain the both of them, and, subsequently, take care of a teenage girl.
With all that it was clear that she would hardly have the time to return to her search for the old container before the week was over. She’d probably end up asking them to deliver everything to her parents’ home, which would mean another bill to pay. On the other hand, she couldn’t help feeling relieved at the thought of not having to go back to that place. The memory of what had happened the night before alone was enough to leave a heavy weight on her stomach and a feeling of insecurity that greatly displeased her. As much as she’d like to deny it, the truth was that she’d been really scared, which had never happened before in any of her extrasensory missions, no matter how dirty or crazy the people she ended up helping were.
Sarah swallowed the coffee in one go, burning her tongue and feeling it hit her empty stomach hard. But at least it made the anxiety that the memory of that bright gaze had invoked fade away. She definitely could not forget to ask someone to change the lock before she returned home that night.