True Memoirs of A Liar 2: Sacrifice
Author: C Lawson

Chapter 10
Old Friends Feel Like New

Donald and I carefully made our way out of the hospital double-oh-seven style.  Keisha had given me a snug v-neck dark blue sweater and a white knee length skirt with dark blue trim.  She had found a really cute pair of blue and white sandals which were only one size too large.  I thanked her graciously.  I sort of liked her.  Sort of being the operative term.

            Donald yanked me down into the subway and we laughed and talked and joked until the train stopped for the third time.  I hopped out first and Donald more hobbled than hopped.  He then flew into a small coughing fit.  I smiled and shook my head.  Donald caught up to me and linked his arm in mine.  We both laughed and as he made a very phony chivalrous bow.

            “We’re almost there,” Donald promised.

            I groaned loudly and threw my head back as we passed more and more brick buildings. “You said that twenty minutes ago!” I complained.  Donald patted my hand.

            “Don’t worry.  Duck is at your service.”

            “Why is your nickname Duck?” I asked, already having a few ideas.  Donald chuckled to himself and turned a corner with me close by his side.  Other civilians walked past us hurriedly, most on cell phones, most carrying briefcases, none holding hands.

            “Well, the fact that my name is Donald.  And when I was little, I used to be obsessed with the cartoon.  It just stuck, I guess.” Then, before I could respond, Donald Duck Man stopped and looked up at an absolutely beautiful building.  It was gray, with rain stains on the pillars.  I imagined it might have been white once.  I could see inside the building and it was lit with chandeliers and gold and white colored furniture.  Donald let me go in first and then pressed the elevator button.  The doors slid open in opposite directions and we both stepped inside.

            Elevator music and I didn’t really get along.  I didn’t like it.  At all.  Donald bit his lip. “They’ll like you.  Please let them like you.  Please God, let them like her.  I like her.  I like you, Camille.”

            “Uh, thanks,” I muttered.  The elevator stopped and Donald pressed forward into the hallway.  I followed like a lonesome puppy.  When he reached the door, he hesitated for just a moment before taking a deep breath and knocking loudly on it.  The door was tall, cherry wood—as it appeared—and the doorknob was made of crystal.

            The door opened and a girl with long brown hair stood with a large smile on her face.

            “Ducky!” she cried, going forward and embracing him.  She turned to me and hugged me. I took an instinctive step back, and gave her a polite smile. “Who’s your friend?  You’ve never brought a girl here before!”

            “Sorry, Jazz, is it against the house rules?” Donald asked with less than a little enthusiasm. “Jasmine this is Camille.  Camille this is Jasmine.” Jasmine?  Wait, the world couldn’t be that small.  Could it?

            “We weren’t expecting you until later…” Jasmine insisted.  Now all three of us looked confused.

            “You were expecting Camille?” Donald asked.

            “You know Donald?” I wondered.

            “Where is your friend Alex?” Jasmine asked.  I studied her face.  She looked like she had African and Asian heritage in her.  Her chubby cheeks and round face complemented her squinted hazel eyes.  She seemed friendly.

            “Okay, I met Donald yesterday.  Alex and I were invited here tonight.  I had no idea Donald and Kyle were related.  And Alex is still at the hospital.  Does that sort of explain everything?” I summed up as much as I could.

            “Hey, Jazz, who’s at the door?” A man jogged up behind Jasmine and then stopped short when he saw me.  He looked so familiar it almost hurt.  I blinked when realization hit me like an eighteen-wheeler going seventy-five miles an hour.

            “Peter?” I asked, not sure if I was right.  I wasn’t really sure of anything lately.  He nodded and gaped.  His clean cut hair was dark and his almost scary green eyes stared at me blankly.  He gently glided past Jasmine and stood in front of me. “Oh my God!  Peter!” I ran into him, it only took two steps.  His arms enfolded me and he kissed the top of my head.  After a few silent moments, I heard his voice.

            “Missed you,” he breathed.

            “Yeah?  You too, jackass,” I commented.  Peter laughed into my hair.  I remembered when I had first met him, we hadn’t exactly hit it off.  It was more like we had wanted to hit each other.  Repeatedly.  But now it just felt good, no, more than good, to find someone I remembered.  Peter stroked my back and kept whispering how good it was to see me.

            “Got your memory back huh?” Peter asked, completely ignoring Donald and Jasmine.  We had created our own little bubble of reconciliation.  And I felt elated.  I shook my head.

            “No, I haven’t,” I mumbled, confused but too happy to dwell on it.

            “Then how do you remember me?” he wondered. I shrugged and hugged him again.  Peter embraced me tightly, sending shivers of recognized appreciation down my spine.  Peter pulled away and I wondered why.  I saw Jasmine’s expression when he turned to her and I didn’t have to ask myself twice. “Enough of this reuniting crap.  Let’s get inside.  You look good, Duck.”

            “Yeah, sure Pete,” Donald grumbled.  Peter led me inside and left Jasmine to close the door.  I turned my head to see the back of Jasmine’s.  Kyle was right.  She did look like me from behind.  We walked down a hallway that opened up into a living room/dining room connection.  Four other men sat or stood in various parts of the living room.  The all looked up when they saw me and everyone went into a flying outburst.

            Kyle walked up to me and gave me a quick hug.  He smiled timidly and Peter held off anyone else who tried to get to me.  The other three brothers introduced themselves as Isaac, Gene, and Doug.  Peter gave Kyle a look of warning, for some reason I could not guess.  I stepped away from Peter and closer to Donald.  The brothers welcomed ‘Duck’ as well, but all eyes were trained on me.  Even as Jasmine’s deep set lasers sliced through me—probing me—I took Donald’s hand in mine.  I had just met him, but I felt more comfortable next to him than surrounded by this large family.  At least, so far.  Thoughts of Alex flashed in my mind and I clung tightly to Donald’s dry hand.  He squeezed my hand back; reassuring me.

            The afternoon was showing the first promising peeks of a long night.  Questions were fired off like machine gun bullets.  I was asked everything.  I could answer next to nothing.  I wished briefly that Alex could be there with me, so he could answer some of these ridiculous inquiries.  Also, I’d noticed that with Alex I was less self-conscious, more enthusiastic; somewhat stronger.  I wanted him so badly then, in that moment I hadn’t realized how much I missed Alex.

            Then panic rose in my throat, making it hard to swallow.  What if I had been wrong?  What if Alex and Serenity hadn’t lied to me at all?  Both of them had been nothing but perfect to me and I had come right out and accused them of deceiving me.  How could I?  And to add insult to injury, I had run away.  And I had done so with another guy.  How could I even fathom hurting Alex like I had that day?  I had run the first chance I got.  I ran away from everything that was good in my confusing and new life.  Why?

            Because I’d read the guilt and dishonesty in both Serenity’s and Alex’s eyes.  My intuition flared again like a dying fireplace fire after gasoline and a new log had been tossed inside.  I cringed and Donald eyes me suspiciously.

            “Headache,” I lied easily.  I had lied so naturally, so believably that Donald nodded slightly and turned back to his family.  Peter asked me if I needed an aspirin, but before I could reply my polite refusal, he had told Jasmine to go and get me a Tylenol and a glass of water.

            “I’m fine, really.  Jasmine,” I called just loud enough for her to hear. “Thank you, but I’m fine, honest.” She gave me a grateful smile and resumed her position on Peter’s arm.

            I was seated on the plush sofa and Donald sat next to me.  More questions were shot off at me.  I held up a firm hand. “If you wouldn’t mind, I’d rather save the questions for later on when Alex gets here.  He probably knows more than I do.  As you might have heard from Kyle; I have amnesia.  So any questions about what I’ve been up to lately or what college I went to… I have no idea.  I’m sorry, I’m sure you’d like to know.” Everyone in the room nodded. “Trust me, so would I.” I shrugged as the Rainey family laughed. “I am interested, however, in what you’ve all been doing.”

            Doug and Gene were in college majoring in mechanics together and working part time at an auto-body shop.  Peter worked in Pennsylvania as a temporary doctor’s assistant—he refused to call his stint a nursing job—and was still studying at Penn State as a business major.  He planned to open a sports bar and eventually expand.  Kyle was one of the many businessmen in New York City; he worked as a VP for a business that bought other small businesses.  He and Isaac shared this loft and Isaac, who had been leaning on a further wall, glared at me and didn’t offer any information about himself.

            The sun was setting.  It was seven-ish.  A knock sounded at the door and I hopped up, fervently insisting that I would get it.  I raced to the door and stopped short when I reached for the doorknob.  I took a deep breath and opened the door.  Alex stood, rumpled and shaggy-haired in front of me.  He hadn’t seen me, he was staring at his shoes.  He was wearing the same thing he’d been wearing in the hospital.  Alex inhaled deeply, and then his head jerked up.  Stress lines creased the corners of his eyes.  I suspected he’d been out all day looking for me.  If I’d known his cell phone number I would have told him not to worry.  I shouldn’t have left him in the first place, I remember thinking.

            He rushed into me, crushing me against his chest.  I circled my arms around his neck and pulled him closer to me.

            “I’m so sorry,” I apologized softly.  Alex kissed my cheeks and forehead, just as he had when I’d first woken up in the hospital.

            “You had me so worried.  I’ve been looking for you since I found out you weren’t in the hospital.” He kissed me swiftly then, taking my breath away even though he wasn’t trying to. “You’ve been here?”

            I nodded. “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to scare you.  I didn’t scare you too much, did I?” I asked, barely registering footsteps somewhere down the hallway.

            “Are you kidding?” Alex wondered aloud.  He chuckled into the crook of my neck. “You scared me half to death.” Alex paused and hugged me tighter to him if it was possible. “But I guess the important thing is that you’re not…hurt.”

            “I’m fine.  And I really am sorry, Alex.” I was contrite again. “I didn’t even plan it.  I was just so mad, I needed time—”

            Alex interrupted me. “No, you don’t have anything to be sorry for.  I just missed you like crazy,” he admitted, lowering his head.  I felt more guilty than ever.  I hated myself for being the cause of so much stress.

            “Haven’t we all?” Kyle asked in a business-like tone.  He strode over to Alex and me and stared at us. “So you two are involved.” It was more of a statement than a question.  I blushed and buried my face in Alex’s chest, grinning wickedly.  Alex slid his hands up and down my back.

            “We’re engaged to be married,” Alex claimed proudly, kissing the top of my head sweetly.  Kyle stood, in stunned silence.  I saw his raised eyebrows and I bit my lip.

            “Well.  Who would’ve thought?” Kyle wondered out loud.  He shrugged and began to lead us to the dining room where everyone was seating themselves.

            “Me,” Alex whispered, only loud enough for me to hear. 

 

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