July 4th, 1997
I saw him again tonight, or maybe I didn’t really, I don’t know. It could have been the fireworks, which always remind me of fire and fire of course reminds me of that night.
Mom let me go to the beach with friends today and it was so much fun. Robbi and Lani were there as well as Penny, Mark, Michael, Brian and Justin. We brought a picnic and played Frisbee and swam in the warm water. It was a great day!
I got to drive Mom’s car with all the usual promises – NO drinking, nobody other than Robbi, Lani and I in it, follow the speed limit, etc.. Still, it felt wonderful; I felt so grownup and free. We turned on the radio and sang along to our favorite songs while we traveled; Robbi has a beautiful voice and even if Lani and I don’t, it is still fun to sing along.
Anyway, I thought I saw him as we sat watching the fireworks. Brian had his arm around me and leaned down to kiss me. When I turned my head towards his I thought I saw him watching from behind a dune. For a brief moment I thought his eyes looked almost like they were glowing, but it was the reflection of the fireworks of course. It sort of startled me though and I pulled my head back quickly and Brian’s kiss landed on my cheek instead of my mouth! Embarrassing, for both of us.
Brian goes to my school and I kinda like him; he’s never tried to kiss me before though and I was sorry that I had screwed up the moment. It wouldn’t be my first kiss, but I haven’t had that many and I’m almost 17! I need to get in more lip to lip time and Brian is just perfect for that!
After the fireworks Brian walked me to my car and I did get the kiss then! It was awesome, let me tell you. I can’t wait for the next one. I drove home feeling like I was on cloud nine!
If my shadow man watches me, why doesn’t he ever just let me see him; really see him? If he’s real what is the deal? This way I never know whether I am crazy and imagining the whole thing or not. Maybe he isn’t real, maybe that’s the thing – I only imagine him. Maybe my sub-conscious has only created these fleeting glimpses of him to make myself feel safe? That’s a disturbing thought…
Mom was waiting (I hope not too anxiously) when I got home and I shared the events of the day with her, even the missed kiss and the real one. (But I didn’t tell her about why the first attempt as the kiss didn’t work) She thought I had a bit of sunburn on my face and I got the ‘Didn’t you use enough sun block?’ lecture. I told her that I did, and tried to use it often, but geez, it’s easy to forget it, you know? She reminded me that skin cancer wouldn’t be so easy to forget.
She has a point…
“SO,” Lani asked, “Was there tongue?”
“What???” Beth sputtered, trying to focus on driving and not run off the side of the road when she heard Lani’s question.
“You know, when Brian kissed you? I love it when they slip me the tongue!” she said with a sigh.
Robbi rolled her eyes and said, “Listen Miss ‘Do Me’, it’s none of your business. Sheesh Lani, do you ever think about anything besides boys and sex?”
Lani laughed as she looked at her friend, “I sometimes wonder if I should talk Mom and Dad into letting me get my boobs made bigger. Boys like ‘em big!” She woefully looked down at her breasts, B cups at best and let out a frustrated sigh.
“I really can’t believe you sometimes Lanelle Parker! And I can’t imagine you ever making it through business school!” Robbi said.
“Hey, I have it all figured out! And like Melanie Griffith said in Working Girl – ‘I got a mind made for business and a bod made for sex’ or something like that anyway. I may not have a bod made for sex yet, but I will. One of these days the girls are going to make it big!”
Beth was aware of the bantering going on between her two best friends but paid little attention to it. She heard it all the time and could easily tune it out. At first she was thinking about the kiss, or rather the missed kiss and then she thought about her shadow man.
She really was beginning to think she imagined him; it all made sense. He never showed himself outright and so if he was real that pissed her off. It definitely wasn’t cool to let someone think they were crazy. He must be imaginary, he has to be…
Mick watched Beth from the safety of the sand dune, being cautious to keep well-hidden in the shadows of the night. For the most part the kids were just having fun, no drinking, just usual teen types of preoccupation, i.e. chasing the opposite sex. And Beth wasn’t really that different in that although certainly not as blatant as some of her friends.
Several of the teens had sort of paired off for the evening, Beth being one of those. She was sitting in the sand watching the fireworks display when her young man leaned in for a kiss. Even from where he was sitting Mick could smell the boy’s attraction for Beth and for a moment Mick’s eyes flashed silver in the inky black night and he stepped back, appalled at his reaction.
He had known that sooner or later this would happen. She was a beautiful young woman and she was going to date boys, men and he also knew that he had to let all this go. He made his way down the beach to where the Benz was parked and got in behind the wheel and sat silently for a few minutes. He leaned his forehead down and rested it on the steering wheel for a minute to try and shake it off.
This wasn’t healthy, it wasn’t good for either one of them and he knew it. He tried to tell himself that he had a fatherly interest in her well being, and maybe in years past there was that. But as she grew and matured it was harder for him to buy that. When he looked at her he saw a woman, a beautiful young woman and he had to force himself to remember that she deserved a life that was untainted by anything that he could bring to it.
He had to find a way to let it go…
Knowing that his best friend Josef was always a great distraction, from anything, he headed there. The top was down in the car and he cruised along, feeling the night. He felt the wind blast through his hair and he pushed the accelerator down a little bit more, enjoying the rush of speed. He cruised for a bit down PCH before heading back toward Josef’s.
As he walked in to Josef’s he saw that he was just finishing dinner. And quite a dish she was, Mick had to admit.
“Care to join me for a little dessert?” Josef inquired, sweeping his arm about to offer some of the other ladies to his friend.
For a moment Mick actually considered the offer. It had been a long time, maybe too long since he had fed fresh. It was his own, self-imposed rule; he could break it if he wanted. Finally he shook his head and replied “I’ll take mine in a glass if you don’t mind!”
Josef shook his head and snapped his fingers and before Mick knew it a lovely woman brought Mick a glass that rested on a silver tray. Mick smiled to himself over the formality of it all but took the glass and sipped slowly, savoring the taste. The blood wasn’t straight from the vein, but it was still fresh and much better than any morgue blood Mick got from Guillermo.
“So,” Josef said, flicking an imaginary piece of lint off of his suit, “What brings you by? Hankering for a game of pool or poker or did you just miss me?” He grinned, knowing they would irritate Mick, who never admitted to needing company or being lonely. Still, Josef thought, something was up tonight, he could smell it all over Mick.
“No Josef, I – “he closed his mouth for a moment and rethought his next words. “You know what? Maybe a game would be a good thing. I think I’m up for that.”
“Uh huh,” Josef answered, sure now that something was bothering his friend. They had this rule that they didn’t pry into each other’s lives, but then again, rules were made to be broken and Josef had broken them all at one time or another. He snapped his finger’s again and said “Call the guys – tell them poker here at my place, right away!” One of Josef’s servants rushed to do as he was told.
“Care to tell me what’s going on?”
“Nothing. No, just, I don’t know, a case I guess.”
“A case? They don’t usually get you so out of sorts. Hell, if I got to follow people around and watch them have sex I’d consider it a great night!” Josef watched as Mick’s eyes flashed silver and he started to rise from the couch.
“What the hell do you know about it?” Mick all but yelled.
“Well, obviously I hit a nerve there boyo. Sorry,” he said, getting up to stroll over to the bar. He picked up a crystal flask of single malt and proffered it to Mick, who nodded his head.
Josef poured two generous glasses and carried them over to the table between the couch where Mick was sitting and his own chair. They each picked up a glass and Josef held his high and offered, “To the night!”
“And it’s secrets,” Mick answered. Mick all but downed his in one swallow and then sat his empty glass back down on the table.
Josef’s eyebrow quirked upwards and he asked, “Another?”
“No, not right now.” He leaned back on the couch and shut his eyes for a moment, savoring the burn that still trickled down his throat. The burn was good; he only wished he could feel the results of the alcohol; he wanted to numb his brain, he wanted oblivion right now really badly.
Josef observed all this quietly, sipping his own drink. One leg was crossed over the other and he looked the picture of gentile relaxation, but quite the opposite was true. Mick was on edge and now so was he.
“Anything going on that I should know about Mick?” he probed.
“No – yeah. I’ve got to get out of here,” he declared.
“What? You just got here!”
“No, I mean out of LA Josef. I need to move on! I have to.”
Josef nodded his head; he knew he wasn’t going to get anything else out of Mick right now so he only said, “I’ll get my people working on it.”
Mick nodded, satisfied. This is how it has to be.
A week later Mick had packed up the rest of his belongings. Some things would go into storage, the rest Josef was disposing of. Josef’s guy had taken care of everything Mick needed for a new start; new ID and documentation to go with it that would fool any system out there. He had said his goodbyes to the people he cared about; all except one. That one would never know and that was how it should be.
There were questions though from one other who cared about her. “Why must you go? Where will you be? How can we reach you if we need you?” Mick could only shake his head to most of those questions; for everyone’s sake the answers were better left unsaid. He left a number though, just in case; it was the best he could do.
That night Beth woke up from a nightmare, her heart pounding wildly. She was covered in sweat and her nightgown was drenched and twisted around her legs. She sat up in her bed, staring at the full moon that was shining through her bedroom window. She tried to remember what the nightmare was about.
She concentrated and the dream came back to her, slowly at first and then rushing in like a runaway train. Her shadow man was gone; she didn’t know how and she didn’t know where, but he was gone.
She cried herself back to sleep that night full of despair. Would she ever feel safe again?