Authors: Rima Jean
The communication equipment
and weapons were in pieces, hidden in cigarette cartons, within the trunk of the black Mercedes CLS 550. Luke and the driver, a friend of Ash's, shook hands, their eyes conveying what their mouths didn't. After watching the sedan drive off, Luke turned and headed into downtown Amman with purpose.
Since the protest, a feeling of discord had settled over the city. The clubs and shisha bars were quieter, even the merchants' calls seemed more muted. As if the very streets sensed that something was not quite right, that something of meaning had shifted.
In the dank alleyway, Luke rapped firmly on the old door. Several minutes passed before it opened, and Luke was ushered in. Unlike the last time, the room was empty, only the lingering stench of cigarette smoke betraying its silence. Luke waited for Ahmed, choosing to stand rather than sit. When the Arab finally emerged, he smiled broadly at his American conspirator.
After pulling Luke into a rough embrace, Ahmed said, "You have followed through for us, Marshall. We owe you."
Luke shook his head. "You owe me nothing except your promise to stay alive."
"We've discussed it," Ahmed said, "and have decided we would be honored to have you join us."
Swallowing, Luke replied, "I am the one who is honored."
Marya's inability to do anything but sleep helped the time pass quickly, in a blur. She didn't remember packing, or what she said to Dr. Ducharme or Amy as she climbed into the taxi bound for the airport. She was on autopilot; someone asked her if she was okay, if she needed some Advil, and she replied that she was fine, she just wanted to get home.
Now she awoke with a start, blinking in confusion at the ste
wardess who spoke to her gently, her voice tinged with concern. "Demoiselle, we are in Paris. It is time to disembark."
Grabbing her carry-on,
Marya stumbled off the plane and into the airport. Pushing her hair out of her face, she stared blearily at the multitude of screens before her, all blinking and flashing places and times. People rushed past her, speaking various languages, adding to her bewilderment.
Snap out of it. You've got to get home.
She closed her eyes and reopened them, focusing on the neon green letters. After an unnaturally long time, she was able to figure out which way she had to go to board her flight to New York. She began to walk, her bag slapping against her hip with each stride. She wasn't hungry, but she did need some coffee. Maybe caffeine would help her snap out of this mental fog.
She stopped at a small kiosk to buy her coffee, dumping an a
bsurd amount of sugar into it before continuing on through the terminal. She took a sip and immediately her stomach protested. When she finally reached the gate, she flopped down in a chair and dropped her bag to the floor. She stared at the hot Styrofoam cup between her hands, wondering how long it would take her to feel normal again.
Would she ever feel normal again?
People would tell her that, yes, she would, that broken hearts mend over time. But Marya refused to believe that her heart had merely been broken. It had been ripped from her chest. She had given her heart to Luke, and it would forever belong to him.
You just think that because you lost your virginity to him
, a voice in the back of her mind whispered. But she couldn't accept that as an explanation. She was too old for that kind of nonsense. She was past that. Her virginity had meant nothing to her for years now -- only that it had made her socially awkward.
She hung her head. She would need therapy. And meds.
Lots of meds.
A man in dirty black military boots sat across from her, and she looked up. Boy, would she need meds, because now she was hall
ucinating. Luke sat before her, his eyes bloodshot and greener on account of the redness. As always, he needed a shave and a haircut, and one side of his face was black and blue and a curious shade of green.
She must have swayed, because he said, "Please don't faint."
Marya opened her mouth. "You look like shit." The most beautiful shit she had ever seen.
He smiled. "You don't look so great yourself,
Helwe. You desperately need a hairbrush."
Her body was melting on the inside. "Where are you headed?" she asked, as if they were two strangers having a casual chat at the airport.
"I don't know." He studied the boarding pass in his hand. "New York City, it seems. Maybe to finish my Ph.D."
She nodded, the Styrofoam slick between her fingers.
"And there's this girl," he added. "I'm in love with her. I'm hoping to lure her my way."
The intercom blared, calling them to board.
Marya stood, pulling her bag to her shoulder. "Well, good luck with that." She was afraid to say more, knowing she was on the brink of tears.
"Thanks," he said, standing as well. He tilted his head, his eyes holding hers. "What are my chances, you think?"
Marya held out her hand. "I think they're pretty good."
Luke linked his fingers through hers and let out his breath. "Damn. That's good to know."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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