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"Of Course I Still Love You"
After seeing myself, with Tommy, I went home.
And headed immediately for a drink.
I needed it.
I was still reliving that scene in the woods with Tommy. I had seen it in my mind, playing over and over while I drove home. It just wouldn’t stop.
I guess saying "I love you," are powerful words.
Of course they are. They were my "unfinished" business with Tommy. Now that I’ve told him, he’s moved on.
When I talked to Jarod, I asked him, because he had been a friend of Tommy’s, if Tommy had ever known what I really did at the Centre. He said he didn’t know, but he also knew that Tommy would still have loved me, even if he would have known.
With a drink in hand, I sat down on the couch, and start to dream…
Once again, I’m in the woods. With Tommy sitting next to me…
"Parker, do you have something you want to tell me?" Unable to speak, I just shook my head. "Its, ok," he said.
A few seconds later, I was able to speak. "Tommy, there’s something I wanted to tell you for a long time. Just as much as I wanted to say ‘I love you.’ Tommy, I want to tell you about me. About my real life."
Tommy didn’t say anything, just waited for me to continue at my own pace. "Tommy, remember when you came to the Centre? You said that it was locked up like Alcatraz."
"Yes, I do. I can’t believe what I had to go through to get inside."
"Tommy…well, it was a good comparison. The Centre, in many ways, is just like Alcatraz. The Centre takes people away from their families and exploits them for their genius. There are many projects at the Centre, such as Gemini, and the Pretender Project. Pretenders are people that can pretend to be anyone they want to be. A doctor, a construction worker, an engineer, etc. That’s what Jarod was. The Pretender Project created Jarod, so to speak. The Centre held Jarod captive for over 30 years. Then, he escaped."
"My friend, Jarod, he was a Pretender?" Tommy asked.
"Yes, he was. Wherever he goes, Jarod helps people who can’t help themselves. He’s a modern day Qua Chang."
Tommy just nods, a bit skeptical. Well, I hope he can handle what comes next…
"That’s where I come in. When Jarod escaped, I was assigned to find him. My father is the head of the Centre. Do you remember Lyle?"
"The guy without the thumb?"
"Yes, that’s him. Lyle lost his thumb to the Yakuza, a Japanese mob. He tried to doublecross them. And he paid. Lyle’s also tried to double cross the Centre. He paid for that too. This happened before it was known that he was my brother. He once stole an important chip from the Centre. Daddy told me to track him down and kill him."
"Of course I did. I’m Daddy’s ‘little girl,’" I said, bitterly. "His perfect tool. I suppose I was trained in much the same way as Jarod. When my mother was killed, Daddy had me sent off to boarding school for years. When I came back, he made me start working at the Centre. I remember, that when I was younger, I had always said that I would never work there. But I ended up working there. In time, I came to like it. I set myself a goal to reach Corporate in five years, and I did. Then, Jarod escaped, and everything changed."
"I was called back into the field to recapture Jarod. I’ve been doing it for four years now. And I still haven’t succeeded. Daddy made me a deal: Capture Jarod, and leave the Centre. By the time Jarod left, I was getting sick of the Centre. Sick and horrified at what I learned. But there was still more for me to learn."
"Jarod, when he escaped, he started looking for information."
"Information about what?" Tommy asked.
"His parents. The Centre. Me."
"Yes, me. And my family. Which, of course, goes with the Centre. My mother, as you know, died when I was young. For most of my life, I believed that she had committed suicide. At least, that’s what my father wanted me to believe. Jarod opened my eyes to the real facts. That somebody at the Centre had had my mother killed. Just like somebody had you…" I trailed off, unable to continue.
Tommy sensed my thoughts, and gathered me in his arms. "Parker, I know I’m dead. You know that too. I’m just back, so that some of the things that have been on your mind for the past year can be relieved." He hugged me to him.
For a few minutes, I just sat there, regaining my composure. Then I continued. "I’ve been chasing Jarod for four years, coming close occasionally, but only when he wants me too. I had my deal with my father, I couldn’t leave. Then you came along. You offered to take me away from this place. To a new beginning. My father didn’t like that. Either did the people at the Centre. So they had you…killed." ~You died because of me~
"Parker. I didn’t die because of you."
"You can read my mind?" I asked warily.
"Not exactly, but I know you well enough to know what you are thinking."
"Well, Tommy. Now you know what I did, what I still do. I chase Jarod, trying to end his freedom to gain mine. What do you think?" ~Do you still love me?~ Was the question on my mind.
Once again, Tommy seemed to read my thoughts. "Of course I still love you, Parker."