Ch.7 Accepting Fate
Snow fell gently like soft, white stars. The ground was tucked in for a long night. Slush rose up into the air from speeding cars, and boots stomped mud and water along concrete. The wind was not as cold as it had been, and a calm settled around the area. And fate walked into a diner off the corner of a highway.
The dinner rush was just coming to an end. Waitresses took a moment behind the counter to count their tips. Bus boys quickly removed dirty dishes off tables and hurried them into the kitchen. Cooks finished preparing the last ordered meals, and patrons came and went through swinging glass doors. The loud roar of commotion, voices and laughter had died down to a faint whisper.
Sitting in a booth next to the window, Crissa stared at the menu. She barely ate that day. Knots were twisting and turning in her stomach, but she made up her mind. This was what had to be done, she thought.
“Are you ready to order?”
A brief smile was given by a tired waitress, who apparently was pulling a double. The bags were noticeable under her eyes, and her hair was almost a mess. She turned away for a moment to stifle a yawn.
“I’m working a double.” The waitress sounded annoyed. “Did you need a few more moments to decide what you wanted to order?”
“No. Grilled cheese with bacon and large orange juice.” Crissa handed the woman her menu. “Thank you.” She waited for a response, but the woman stormed away. “You’re welcome,” she muttered.
The voice was as smooth as she had heard it a year ago, but it still took her by surprise. When she turned him away, he stopped contacting her, but he still watched her. After all this time, didn’t he finally move on?
“You wanted to meet?”
“Face to face.”
“No. This way is better.”
“No.” Crissa watched the waitress place the orange juice before her. “Not you.” She saw the look on the woman’s face. “I was talking to myself.”
“Don’t we all?” The woman hurried away from her. “Why do I always get the crazies,” she muttered.
“We meet face to face, or nothing.” Silence followed her response. “Then, I guess I have nothing to say.”
“Have it your way.”
His voice sounded different. She glanced at the window and saw the reflection of a man sitting in the booth behind her. She watched as he slowly stood up from his seat and walked around to where she was sitting, but he did not sit right away. Instead, he just stared down at her.
“Do you want me to apologize?”
“For what?” He sat across from her. “You made your choice.”
“I was wrong.” He looked at her. “I know that now.”
“It’s too late.” He glanced down at his watch. “It’s been a year. A year, Crissa.”
“What do you want from me? I did not want this life.” Her food was dropped in front of her. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” The waitress looked from her to the man in the booth. “Decided to change your seat?” The man nodded. “Still want the same order as before?” He nodded again. “I’ll go get it then.” She walked away.
“She’s getting a small tip.”
“Crissa.” The man shook his head. “You kept trying to reach me.” He tapped his ear. “Why don’t you just tell me what you want, and then you can go back to your life now?”
“I want to come back.”
Silence fell around them. The sounds of the diner even seemed to disappear. Glass doors swung back and forth in quiet, and hardly any footsteps dared to echo along the tiled floor. Only the gaze between the two occupants in the booth spoke a thousand words.
“You want to come back?” The man leaned back against his seat. “After all this time, you want to come back now?”
“Yes.” Crissa watched the waitress place the man’s food before him. “I do.”
“What’s to stop you from leaving again?”
“I won’t leave again.”
“What changed your mind?”
“I don’t believe you.” He shook his head. “There was a reason, and before this conversation goes any further, you need to tell me. Or we’re done here.”
“I tried to live a normal life, but I realized that I was only fooling myself.” Crissa sighed. “You were right. They find me. Those men will always find me.” She leaned back in her seat, poking a finger at her uneaten sandwich. “This is who I am. This is who I am supposed to be. I can’t change that, and I won’t.”
“Good for you.”
“Don’t you want me to come back?” She watched him eat his food. “What have you been doing for the last year?”
“None of your business.” He stuffed a fork full of food into his mouth. “I’ve been living my life.”
“Married?” He continued to eat. “Kids?” He reached for his soda. “Are you Ben again?” He slammed the glass hard against the table. “Sorry.”
“I could never be Ben again. That was part of the deal.”
“So, your family and friends think you’re dead?”
“Something like that.” He pushed his plate away from him. “I’m a ghost. I’m your ghost.” He looked at her. “If you want to come back, that’s fine with me. I won’t be sitting on my ass anymore, waiting for you, but I want to know why.”
“I told you why.”
“No, you didn’t.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “Why don’t you try again?”
“You ever watch that tv show? What was it? Law and Order: SVU. Ever watch it?” He gave her a curt nod. “I want to be like those cops on that show. I want to make a difference.”
“It’s a good tv show, but it’s not the reason.” He checked his watch once more. “One last chance, and then I’m walking out the door. And I’m not coming back.”
“You can’t leave me.”
“You left me.” Crissa looked away. “I gave you my life, and you put it on a dusty shelf for a year. You tried to live your life with what? Working in retail, struggling to pay rent, and living alone, and what about me? I was the guy next door waiting for you to realize your full potential, accept your fate, and finally here you are, and something did open your eyes. But it was not that damn tv show.”
“Alright.” Crissa looked at him. “Alright.” The waitress dropped the check on the table and quickly walked away. “There is a reason. Why is it so important to hear it?”
“Because I want to know the truth.”
“Because you know what kind of life you are asking to relive, and you know that once we leave here, there is no turning back. So, please, tell me why you would want to live that life again?”
“I found myself watching the news, reading the newspaper, and you know how much I hate doing that. But there are children missing, children dead. There are attacks every day and night on women. It’s horrible out there. There are so many predators running around. They’re running around because of me.”
“What can you do to stop it?” She stared at him. “You’re bait. You’re a worm hanging on a hook, and we can’t dangle you in front of all of them, hoping for them to bite.”
“I know how to find them.”
“I can zone in on them now. I can find them instead of having them find me.” A small smile spread across her face. “I’ve reached my full potential.”
“We’ll have to put that to the test.”
“Already done.” She saw the surprised look on his face. “I’ve already targeted an area with major crime problems, and I have an interview at one of their retail stores.”
“And what’s your plan? Walking in there, playing bait, and hoping to not get yourself killed?”
“I won’t get you killed.” She leaned closer to him. “I know what I am doing.”
“I don’t like your tone, Crissa.”
“I’m ready to get my hands dirty.” He fidgeted in his seat. “I’m ready to do what I have to do.”
“You’re talking about killing them.” Crissa leaned back against her seat. “We don’t kill them. We tag them.”
“Tagging doesn’t always work, and if my life is on the line, then it should be my life or theirs.”
“This isn’t survival of the fittest.”
“No, it’s survival.” Crissa stared at him. “It’s me or them.”
“Crissa.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “What if they kill you?”
“It’s a chance that I am willing to take.” She reached over and touched his hand. “It’s a risk that we both should take.” She was surprised that he did not pull his hand away. “Something needs to be done, and I’m the only one, who can do something about them.”
“I know.” He held her hand now in his. “I just wish it didn’t have to be you.”
“I know.” They stared at each other for a long moment. “Will your superiors be okay with my decision?”
“They’ll be thrilled to have you back.” He looked down at the table. “They just don’t want you on anybody’s radar including the police.” He looked at her. “We have to be careful. Any mess that you create must be quickly cleaned up. It can’t be like that bus accident.” He closed his eyes after realizing what he just said.
“Bus accident?” She pulled her hand away. “You covered it up?” He looked at her. “What did the news say? The bus just exploded?”
“We had to cover it up.” He reached for her hand. “We were protecting you.” His fingers touched hers. “There would have been a mass panic, if people knew the truth.”
“People should know the truth.” She pulled her hand away. “People should know about me.”
“If they know about you, would you ever be safe?” She closed her eyes at his words. “They’ll find you even when you don’t want them to.” She looked at him. “You’ll never be safe again, and that is why we have to keep you off radar.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “You need to live life without always looking over your shoulder.”
“I always look over my shoulder. I always watch those around me. I keep one step ahead of everyone.” A tear rolled down her cheek. “I’m not safe, and I never will be safe.” She wiped the tear away. “But I rather it be me than the people out there that don’t know that monsters do exist.”
“I will do everything in my power to keep you safe.” He moved out of his seat and sat down next to her. “I am your protector.” He placed an arm around her shoulders. “I am your guardian.” He touched her chin with his hand. “With me, you will be safe.”
“You can’t always protect me.” She stared at him. “This is who I am, and this is who I was meant to be.” She looked out the window. “This is what fate gave to me.” She turned toward him. “I accept that.” She glanced down at his watch. “Are they waiting for us?”
“Will they accept my terms?”
“For you to track them down and kill them?” He shook his head. “I don’t know, but we will work something out.” He slid out of the booth. “Crissa.” She now stood behind him. “Once we go back, you won’t see me face to face again. You know that is not allowed.”
“I know.” She smiled at him. “I also know that you will never stop watching. You will always be my guardian angel.” She took his hand. “Let’s go.”
They seemed like old friends, and nobody at the diner really paid them any attention. The man reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a hundred-dollar bill, and he dropped it onto the table. The young woman continued to hold his hand, and they walked toward the door. They seemed like ordinary people that were calling it a night, but only fate knew different. And they strolled outside into the cold, into the darkness.
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