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Chapter or Story Chapter or Story
Disclaimer in 1st Chapter.
As usual, thanks to Antoinette, and sorry for the "Castle" quotes ;)
Feel free to review and rate, even if you think this is terrible!
NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT
Ore 3.17 p.m.
NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT
Ore 3.17 p.m.
After spending the morning talking together, Jarod had decided to do something fun, that afternoon. Even though Miss Parker had no idea where they were going, Jarod seemed to know exactly what he was doing. They were in a rented car, a black sedan with tinted windows, typical Centre style. Jarod was driving at moderate speed, his sunglasses covering his eyes and a very smiling face. Miss Parker sat next to him and sometimes she glanced at him. When Jarod caught her watching him, she diverted her eyes quickly, a bit embarrassed, like a child caught spying on her boyfriend.
Jarod seemed amused by that new and comfortable situation, though; it was the first time they drove together on the same vehicle and he didn’t have his hands cuffed.
The landscape flew outside and became more and more rural. The day was lovely, as if it was a reflection of their good mood.
“Jarod…you’ve been driving for half an hour, where are you taking me?”
“You’ll see.” he answered. Then he took her hand and kissed it gently, obtaining a happy look on Miss Parker’s face in exchange.
The trip went on for a few minutes until Jarod turned right into a dirty road. He slowed down and finally stopped in front of a country red brick manor. It was adorable, surrounded by luxuriant trees and wrapped in an atmosphere of total peace.
Miss Parker breathed deeply, thinking that spring would soon arrive and she would get outside without her leather jacket. The wind messed her hair that was falling heavy on her shoulders. It had grown since the last time she had seen Jarod.
“What’s this place?” she asked, curious.
Jarod took off the sunglasses and closed the car door. “This was the house where your mother used to spend summers before you were born. It was on sale until a few days ago, but not anymore.”
“Who bought it?”
“I did.” Jarod confessed, smiling in amusement. Miss Parker knew that Jarod had lived with the money stolen from the Centre for years. But the fact that he had always used that money to help people probably didn’t give him the right to invest it in buying a house.
“If you’re wondering,” he immediately guessed what she was thinking “I bought it with the money I made all these years with my “honest work”. You may not believe me, but they paid me handsomely whenever I used my so called pretending-talent to find a new job. Well, some better than others.”
Parker smiled, both for his joke and because Jarod, once again, had guessed what she was thinking.
“Catherine used to come here two weeks a year and she always invited an old friend of hers to spend time together.”
“My mother.” he finished, this time with a lump in his throat. He approached her and held Parker from behind, laying his face warmly next to hers and smelling her vanilla hair perfume.
“Can you figure that? Our mothers staying here for days, together?”
“Jarod, how could you possibly know this?” she asked, staring at him and trying to understand how he could always know so many things.
“Because a few days ago, somebody sent me an e-mail with this attached.” he answered honestly, taking a picture from his jacket.
It was a black and white photo portraying Catherine and Margaret in front of that house, together. The manor hadn’t changed since, while the smiles on the two women’s faces had disappeared forever.
Margaret was pregnant, she was probably far a few months.
“March 1959…Jarod, this is a few months before…”
“I was born, exactly.” he concluded her sentence.
“This means Margaret and my mother were friends…They went on holidays together and knew each other before you were kidnapped by The Centre.” Miss Parker whispered, her voice broken by emotion.
“I’m afraid this very friendship marked the fate of my family. I’ve been searching for information for years, but these pictures came out just in the last few months; first, the one taken in front of the Alley Sports Bar, and now this. Both sent to me by an anonymous source, which seems to be always the same. And it is inside The Centre.”
Miss Parker shook her head, thoughtful: “If it was Sydney, he would tell us, he never hid anything from us…”
“And if it was Angelo, he would have sent them to me years ago, he wouldn’t have waited so long.” continued Jarod.
“Not so many people know secrets of our past so well and are eager to confess them. I would not want this to be a trap.” continued Miss Parker. She was looking forward to getting inside the manor, so she made a few steps towards the house door.
“I don’t think this is a trap.” Jarod stopped her, while Parker was turning again “After all…”
He came closer and looked at her, smiling: “Ending on the island of Carthis with you was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Miss Parker snorted. “I don’t think so, Jarod. You certainly had better moments, in your life.”
A second later she regretted what she had just said, realizing that Jarod was an overgrown boy who had spent thirty years of his life locked up in hell. Jarod sighed. Miss Parker had so much to learn about kindness.
“Forgive me, I…”
“It’s impossible to try and be romantic, with you. Maybe you abandoned your huntress instincts, but you did not lose your sarcastic sense of humor.”
Parker smiled, noticing how mad he just got. Jarod was walking fast towards the manor, with heavy steps.
What was that weird feeling she felt? Rage for fighting with him for the first time since they got together? That wouldn’t be nor the first neither the last time they would quarrel; their relationship had always been like that, anyway. It wasn’t easy to change and she would never be the an easy girl. But she had to admit that she was having fun, living such a moment. Even so, she started following Jarod, who had left her behind.
“Come on, Jarod…I’m sorry, sometimes I forget you lost the 80s!” she shouted, while he was entering the manor, shutting the front door.
“Jarod!” she screamed, opening the door. As soon as she put a foot inside the antechamber, a hundred pounds of liquid chocolate fell above her and covered her from head to toe. She couldn’t even yell, such was the surprise. Jarod was laughing next to her and enjoying the show that lasted not more that ten seconds. When the chocolate stopped falling from the bucket on the ceiling, Parker cleaned her eyes and stared at him, dirty in every inch of her body. She licked her lips and found out it was good, that chocolate.
“Swiss imported chocolate, if you were wondering.” Jarod explained, approaching her but keeping a safe distance.
“Yes, that’s what I was wondering…Why, Jarod?” she asked him, shaking some more chocolate from herself.
Jarod made another step. “These are my favorite things.” he said.
“What, your silly mind games that drive me mad?” she yelled, with the tone of the frenetic hunter who always got cheated by his prey.
Jarod tightened his arms around her and kissed her, tasting the sweet taste of her lips.
Parker burst out laughing and kissed him again. “If I had my gun, you’d already have a hole in your foot.”
“I thought that was my knee.” he replied, remembering what she told him in Bahia Grande years before, when she threatened to shoot him.
“I change my mind easily…” she whispered slowly, smiling artfully.
“I know. I’ve always been good at persuading you to gain your trust.”
When she realized how true those words were, Miss Parker became serious for a while. She proudly looked at Jarod and she put her hands on his shoulders.
“Jarod…Did I ever thank you for everything you’ve done for me all these years?”
Jarod was sitting at the fireplace, next to Miss Parker, and their faces were by now very close.
“The Centre wanted us to believe that finding the truth is a mistake, that looking for answers about who you really are is futile, and finding any kind of…connection” he stopped a second to taste that important word “outside their control is wrong.”
Parker looked elsewhere for just a second.
“I know you don't want to hear this, but you can feel it. You have been a Centre prisoner all these years, just like me. With every discovery you find, you...you are every bit the outcast…” Jarod stopped again, the fire flames reflected in his eyes.
“Just like me.” he finally said.
“Why is it that the one person ...that I have been trained...to distrust, to hate, to capture…is always with me, during the most difficult moments of my life?”
Parker asked this question not only to Jarod, but also to herself.
“Maybe, it's supposed to be that way…” he answered.
When Jarod thought about those moments, he felt like he was on the island again. He actually did not kiss her, that night?
“Yes, you did.” he said, answering the previous question.
Parker looked at him incredulous, sure that she’d never really pronounced the word “thank you” in a honest way, to Jarod. But she knew that he probably had his own reasons to think so.
“Boy genius, I need to take a shower or I’ll be all sticky in a few seconds.”
“Sure, sweetheart, go ahead.”
Miss Parker was now staring at him, simply furious. Sweetheart?
Jarod smiled. “How come you can use ridiculous epithets with me but I can’t call you by first name, neither give you a nickname? Well, I’ll start calling you C…”
Miss Parker stopped him with a kiss. She didn’t want to give in, and Jarod knew she always wanted to have the last word.
She went looking for a bathroom inside the house and found one with a huge shower upstairs.
Jarod, instead, started roaming inside the manor he just bought. He was almost sitting on the couch when he heard Parker shouting from upstairs: “Come on, Mr. Houdini, I’m waiting!”
Jarod stood up and smiled with himself: “What a woman…”
After the shower – regenerating for both – the two of them started wandering in the house. They were intrigued by every detail: the yellowed wallpaper, the inlaid bedside tables, the chest in the living room, the rustic styled kitchen. It seemed to have come out of a 50’s furniture catalogue. But the thing that got their attention was the complete absence of décor: no photos on the wall, no low cost ornaments, no mementos of the past.
Parker started wondering if the Centre had cleaned up the house yet, taking all the precious stuff belonging to Catherine and Margaret.
“Jarod you’ve already been here. You didn’t find anything belonging to my mother, did you?”
Jarod shook his head. He was following her in a mysterious way, he seemed to be intent on observing every move she made. Parker, on the other hand, touched almost every object she saw.
“Why buying it, then?” she asked, confused.
“I hoped your inner sense would lead us to solve the mystery hiding between these walls.”
Parker stopped and looked at him seriously. “My inner sense?”
Jarod nodded. They had experienced how much Miss Parker’s intuition had grown. Her capability of feeling sensations, emotions and also having visions was comparable to Jarod’s talent as a pretender. But whereas his one was a rational talent, Parker’s gift was completely irrational and subjective. They complemented each other in a very perfect way.
“Sometimes I wonder…If your mother had foreseen the future that awaits for us.” Jarod said.
Parker touched a marble-topped chest on which stood a Victorian style mirror. Her gaze got lost in her reflection for a second, and a moment later she wasn’t there anymore.
Behind her, two kids sat on the floor and laughed, playing and making pyramids with cubes of various sizes. The boy was dark haired and seemed a little bigger than the girl, who had a thick brunette hair and light blue eyes. Miss Parker saw Catherine and Margaret standing next to the children, intent to admire their babies.
“I’d be glad if they keep such bond even when they get older.” Margaret said.
“Oh, they’ll be even more than this” Catherine whispered, smiling at the babies.
“Miss Parker.” Jarod shouted.
Realizing that he spoke, Miss Parker understood she might have been absent for a few seconds, while she was having that vision. Her heart was pounding but she couldn’t understand why. After all, she had just seen a moment of her youth she could have remembered even without that vision.
“Jarod…I saw you…” she started to explain, moving towards the exact point where the children were playing until a few seconds before.
“Of course, Parker, I’m here.” he answered, holding her hand.
“No…I’ve just seen you playing here, as a kid…You might have been three…And I was there too, probably two, or two and a half.”
Jarod looked at the floor, but he couldn’t see anything but the parquet, obviously.
“My mother and yours…They were here with us…And they watched us playing together…Do you remember anything of that?”
“No…But I have almost no memories of my life before they kidnapped me…It’s my greatest regret” he explained ruefully.
Parker smiled. “It was wonderful…They wanted us to preserve that bond and be close even when we grew up.”
Suddenly Jarod had a flashback of his childhood, back at the Centre.
“Jarod, I’ve been told you already met my child.” Catherine said, while she was walking with him through The Centre corridors.
“She’s my best friend. I like spending time with her, she’s brave and smart, and sometimes she also makes me laugh. And she’s beautiful as you are, Mrs Parker.”
Catherine, with a strange light in her eyes, lowered and put her hands on his shoulders, “Jarod, how many times do I have to ask you to call me Catherine?”
“Mr. Raines told me not to, Mrs. Parker.”
Catherine tried to smile and invited young Jarod to keep walking.
“You are so smart, my boy…Your mother would be so proud of you…”
Omitting any other formality, Jarod lost his inhibition, “You know my mother?”
Catherine, noticing people walking around them, asked Jarod to be quiet and then let him sit on a bench.
“You know, I cannot talk to you about this, but you have to know something: I’ll do everything possible to protect you and the other children…And that’s why something terrible might happen to me…”
Jarod shook his head, “You must not take risks, I’ve got Sydney who takes care of me. He promised me that my parents will come back and take me away.”
Catherine smiled and held him, touched. “Jarod, promise me that if something happens to me, you’ll take care of my daughter.”
“I don’t want anything to happen to you, Mrs. Parker. You’re good and careful and always treated me with respect.”
Catherine had tears to her eyes, “Jarod…I know you will have to face adversities and obstacles that will take you away from each other. But in this very moment I want you to promise that whatever happens…you’ll always be Charlotte’s best friend.”
Jarod didn’t answer, he couldn’t accept the idea to lose the only woman who reminded him of his mother.
“Promise me Jarod…that you’ll always be close to her, whatever happens, even in the most difficult times of her life, when she needs a guide to make important choices.”
“I promise, Catherine.”
She held him tenderly, then she saw Sydney in the distance and urged Jarod to go back to him.
Jarod had never told Parker about this. And not because he didn’t want to, but because he couldn’t remember this, before.
“I was right. This house can help us remember…” he whispered.
“Did you see something, too?”
“I just remembered something I hadn’t been thinking about since ’69…A conversation with your mother.”
Parker made him understand she wanted to know everything instantly, so Jarod satisfied her and told her with very clear and precise details what he just remembered. Too much clearly and precisely.
Sat on the couch in the huge living room, Jarod described the loving caress he had received from Catherine just before she died. Even if she was a stranger, in his eyes, she had behaved almost like a mother, at least as much as The Centre and Mr. Parker allowed her to.
“She was the one to insist that you were the girl of that sim…The day we met.”
Parker smiled, thinking about that. “Yeah…With that brunette bobbed hair and schoolgirl-dress I must have arouse you pretty well.”
Jarod laughed, “Your presence was enough. I mean, a kid surrounded by men, did you expect me not to get excited for the first girl I met? You were the only female being I’ve thought about for years.”
Miss Parker’s good mood faded as she realized that boy genius had hit a nerve. She often wondered if he had idealized her just because he had never a chance to see other girls. And what he had just said apparently confirmed her fears. She stood up, her arms folded and her face saddened.
“What?” Jarod asked, guessing that her sudden change of mood was due to what he had just said.
“Maybe you don’t love me Jarod, but the idea of you and me together. Maybe you think you love me just because you never found better.”
Since Parker had said this without facing him, she couldn’t see the pleased smile Jarod had on his face.
She was actually considering that an issue? But she didn’t remember what he had said on the car when they were coming back from the isle of Carthis?
“What am I supposed to do, Jarod?”
“Only you can answer that. I'd just hate to see anyone miss a turning point when one is staring them right in the face.”
“And I suppose you're gonna open my eyes?”
“No, you don't need me to do that. Only you can decide for yourself whether or not to take a hard look at your life...the way your mother once did.”
“Leave my mother out of this, okay? I am not her.”
“Then who are you? Your father? Is the Parker legacy what you want to pass on to your children?”
He had stopped for a second and she had looked at his father imposing figure, standing right outside of the car. What Jarod was saying made sense completely.
“Look, we've been through a lot together, you and me. From when we were kids at the Centre... to the last couple of days. I know that rarely our allegiances are the same but I've always felt- I've always known...that there was something more to our lives than I run and you chase.”
Even if that declaration had shocked her, she had not showed. “Maybe we do what we have to just to get by in this life, Jarod.”
“Maybe we both deserve something more.” He had whispered.
“Just…Just forget what happened on that island. Forget that moment of weakness. Turning points only come when you've got something to turn to.”
When Jarod had taken her hand to hold it inside his, imploring Miss Parker to realize that her turning point had finally arrived, she had suddenly retracted her hand.
“I'm sorry... this isn't the different ending you were looking for. But it's just the way the damn story goes, Jarod.”
“Even if you are such a smart woman, sometimes you talk nonsense, Parker.” he said, holding her from behind her back.
“Is that nonsense?” she asked, turning around to look him in his eyes.
Jarod smiled. “It’s true. I’ve never had to do with other women until I was more than thirty. In my mind there was only you. I was practically obsessed by you, I already told you that. But when I escaped, I met hundreds of people. I can assure you I had to do with other women, and you know that, too…”
Parker thought about that painful moment when she realized she was jealous of the fleeting relationship Jarod had with Nia Pedron. At that time, she defined herself “foolish” and hadn’t told any one what she felt, not even Sydney.
“But I had this umbilical cord that kept me tied to The Centre…it wouldn’t allow me to live my experiences in a “normal” way. Wherever I was, I needed to call you, drive you mad with the mind games I left for you and all the clues, all because I always hoped that you would find me…”
Parker looked at him questioning what he was saying.
“Did you ever wonder why I didn’t just disappear? A genius like me can cover his own tracks, but I always left them, very evident, to let Broots find out where I was and allow you to reach me. Sometimes you found me too late, sometimes too soon…But my main purpose was always the same, seeing you again, Miss Parker.”
“That’s what I can’t understand, Jarod…You met a lot of women, nicer and more friendly than me, why didn’t you choose one of them?”
“Uh, well, you’re right…Many women knew me, some of them loved me. They were incredible women, and I’ll always remember them with affection. But they all share the same flaw.”
“What, red-hair?” she asked ironically.
“None of them was you.”
Parker blushed slightly and let herself go a little, holding her arms around Jarod’s neck, while he put his hands on her waist.
“I tried so hard to make you open up. I wrote a romantic book about you, I sent you presents to let you understand I remembered every single thing you told me, I tried to regain your trust by helping you find out what happened to Catherine. But I failed…And when I realized you didn’t feel the same things I did for you, I gave somebody else the opportunity to make you happy.”
Here we’re talking about Thomas, Parker thought.
“And believe me, if things have worked out, you would have never received other clues from me. I would have been just a friend to trust whenever you needed to – as I had promised Catherine. Unfortunately, we both know what happened…Tommy’s death was a tragedy for me too. That was the moment I had to come back and annoy you. I needed to distract you and give you an excuse to prevent you from suffering.”
Miss Parker shook her head. After Thomas’s death the only person who really helped her was Jarod. That was the first time she opened her eyes about The Centre, about her life. She had never appreciated Jarod more than the day he had confessed to her that he had met Tommy before she did.
“I was again your toy, I was the thing you hated more in the whole world. And you can’t imagine how much I suffered. In fact, that was the moment I tried to get away from you, when I also met Zoe.”
Parker groaned to let him understand she remembered the woman that competed with her for Jarod’s love.
“But even if it was lasting, with her…” Jarod sighed “One day spent together with you was enough to let me reconsider…We were lost on an island, fighting for our lives, but…I can’t help thinking about Carthis as the major opportunity I’ve ever had to lower your defenses…Believe me, I loved you more and more every time my eyes met yours, that night.”
“Maybe it’s true, if my life was different, if I had a normal childhood, I probably would not love you as much as I do. I wouldn’t have spent my teens obsessed by the memory of that girl who gave me my first kiss. And I wouldn’t have spent my first years of freedom driving you mad because I actually wanted you to find me, sure!”
Parker laughed, this time out loud.
“But of one thing, I’m certain. Even if I had lived with my family, we would have grown up together. Because what you saw a few minutes ago, it was a memory, not a mirage.”
Parker smiled. “You’re right. And it was beautiful, intense…we were so happy, even if so young and innocent.”
“Your mother asked me to be your friend. And that’s what I’ve always done since then. Sometimes it was very hard, because you pushed me away. Other times it was so easy, like that night in Bahia Grande…And you wondered why I saved your life…”
“Well, I’m telling you a secret. Women make questions to test men’s feelings. We love to get flattered with sweet words, I bet you didn’t know this one.”
“That’s why I answered you by mentioning our first kiss, Miss Parker…You see? I know women very well.”
“You know me, for sure. Maybe better than anyone else, because you saw the real Charlotte, the one I forgot when my mother died.”
“I see three different persons inside you. Little Charlotte, my best friend…Miss Parker, the ice-woman who chased me for years, lying to herself…”
He stopped for a second and led her to the mirror in front of which she had stood before.
“And now…my Parker. The one who’s going to join those two personalities to decide if she truly loves me.”
Parker smiled, looking at the reflection of that smart and enigmatic man “You’re always the same Jarod. An overgrown child who must still find his way home.”
“Maybe.” he answered, his face lost inside her brown hair. “But at least now I've found the courage to tell you that I love you, so I’ve made a step forward toward my future.”
Parker nodded and kissed him gently. How could she doubt the strong feelings that bound them now that all the missing pieces of the puzzle were starting to fall into place?
“I’ve always been afraid that I’d…got older alone…chasing you to no avail…Sometimes I imagined myself as a remade-sixty-trigger-happy woman, with a liver crushed by my alcoholic problem.”
Jarod looked at her seriously and then, suddenly, they both started laughing. They went on for a few seconds, so that Parker realized she was even crying with laughter.
“Jarod, tell me a joke!” Miss Parker asked Jarod. They were wandering in the Biodome 28 East Gallery, where there was the internal greenhouse. Sometimes they met there and pretended to be in a London Park, where both of them would have wanted to live, once older.
“What is a joke, Miss Parker?” Jarod asked, because he’d never heard that word before.
Parker came close to a blue rose bush, her favorite. Sometimes she went inside that greenhouse just to steal one and be chased by the botanist, who reproached her for her continual robberies.
“It’s like a funny story…But you must understand it, if you really want to laugh.”
Jarod started to think intensely. He was fourteen, and he had known Miss Parker for a very long time. He was starting to look at her in a different way. They were growing and so were their instincts. Sydney had taught him everything about women courting, and yet he never dared making the first step, with Miss Parker, because she was also his best friend and he couldn’t figure how she would react.
When he saw her staring at the blue roses, he came close and bent to the ground with her.
“Flowers growing down here are not like the ones that live outside, under the sunlight.”
“Why?” she asked, not so convinced.
“Down here, nothing is real. The flower can rise, grow and live. But this will never be a complete existence, not without savoring the wind, the sun, the night.”
Parker looked at him, hung on every word. If only Jarod could understand how much she loved him. He was the only one who said those kind of things, the only one who made her feel fine. After school, she always went to The Centre with her father, who obliged her to spend the entire day imprisoned there. But the truth was…that even if she could have chosen, she would never leave Jarod, nor Angelo. They were her only friends.
“Perhaps, Jarod. But also buds born inside here can grow and bloom. They just have to find their own way differently…”
Jarod nodded, his face was very serious. “Sydney said you’re leaving for Europe for your studies, soon…He said your father wants to send you away from The Centre.”
“I won’t go, I’m not going to leave you…”
“Would you really stay here because of me?”
Parker smiled. “Of course, but don’t fool yourself!”
Jarod turned red and looked elsewhere. The botanist wasn’t there, so he took a blue rose from the bush, took it with the entire stem, then gave it to Miss Parker, who smiled.
“Promise me one day…we’re leaving…you and I.”
“And where could we possibly go? Do you reckon Mr. Raines and Sydney would allow you to do that?”
Jarod shook his head, “No…But I’ll find a way to get out of here…And then we’ll leave and go very far, we’ll live together and be friends forever.”
“Friends?” she asked, nervously.
Jarod smiled and took her hand. “We’ll be whatever you want us to be…”
“I love you, Jarod.”
“Me too, Miss Parker.”
The echo of those words was still repeating inside her mind, when Miss Parker stopped laughing. A new memory, a new vision…But why just then, and all together? Why hadn’t she thought about those moments for years? There were other details of the past she shared with Jarod that she had never forgotten. Like their first kiss, or Faith’s discovery, or the day they have met. Why those memories instead were resurfacing just then?
Jarod suppressed his last laughter and touched his chest, then he sat on the couch. He was observing Parker with a calm and peaceful look, as if he had never felt happier in his entire life. She responded with a languid glance, when Jarod stretched his arm to invite her sitting next to him.
Parker took his hand and sat so as she could look at his face.
“Jarod…Do you think The Centre might have…taken away…pieces from our memory… deliberately?”
He sighed. “I don’t think there is such a technology, but…with hypnosis and mostly with a great knowledge of our memories…yes, I guess they might have done that. Why are you asking?”
“Because…since we came here I’ve been remembering events that I didn’t even know have happened! And all about us…”
“What did you see, this time?” he asked, curious.
Miss Parker smiled. “Blue roses…And our promise to leave The Centre together.”
Jarod gazed into space and time and a few seconds later he remembered the same thing. How could he possibly forget such a beautiful moment?
Suddenly he realized that he had memories of other events mostly because of the Centre DSAs. His life in Blue Cove had always been monitored and catalogued. The cameras followed him at any time, and they never left him…So where did such important DSAs end up?
“You know, I think someone made a few important moments of our lives vanish from the Centre archives to hide them from further controls.”
“My mother?” she asked.
Jarod shook his head. “Catherine died in 1970, for all we know…The memories we’re talking about go well beyond, at least up to ’75, the year you left…”
“I don’t know…But I’d love to find out. There may be so many memories to revive, and…to share, too.” he whispered, taking her hand and keeping it close to his face. Parker thought that gesture was incredibly sweet, but she didn’t show.
“Have you really felt something for me, when we were kids?”
“I would have never admitted with a clear mind, but I was the one who broke the ice, if I’m not mistaken!” she answered.
“You said girls mature faster than boys…”
“I was lying, I was just cheeky.” she laughed, opening her eyes, which were immediately hit by the light coming through the window. Jarod kissed her tenderly and, once again, he kept his forehead in touch with hers, in silence and eyes closed. Then he kissed her forehead and stood up, leaving her astonished.
“Jarod, what’s on your mind?”
“If we want this to be forever…it’s time to put an end to The Centre.”
Parker did not expect that sudden change of route. She had hoped that they would take a few days off to talk, stay together, remember.
“Jarod…Why don’t we run? Just the two of us…We may tell Broots and Sydney, they’ll help hide…we’ll leave for Europe, London…Or Haiti, or Thailand, or Siberia…”
Jarod turned around while she was standing up and approaching him.
“Twenty-four hours ago, my life was chasing you…”
“What changed?” he asked.
“Now you are my life. I know this took me too long, and I’m sorry. But I don’t want to risk losing you right now we finally found each other!”
Parker was crying. Jarod felt so protective towards her, that he could not resist watching her like that a second more.
“Parker, the only thing I want right now is to be with you…But my family is out there, somewhere…I can’t let it go. Besides, remember that if The Centre found out about us, Raines wouldn’t hesitate to kill us.”
Parker dried her eyes and nodded rapidly. For a moment, Jarod saw in her that little girl in need of affection he had met at The Centre. He didn’t feel like ending that unexpected solace they’ve found since the night before. For once, he felt the need to be selfish and put his feelings before the others’.
“I’m making a pact with you, Parker. We’re staying here for a few days. Just you and me. After spending some time together you’ll probably get tired of all these sugary words.”
She sniggered. It was the first time she was thinking that it might be good to live just on air and love. What was she, seventeen?
“But then, we get serious. We’ll have to continue the work we started in Carthis, we must find the Triumvirate weaknesses to destroy them, once and for all.”
“Nothing I want more…a holiday week with my prey…This must be my lucky day!” she said, back in a good mood. Jarod smiled.
Jarod and Miss Parker sat in the living room. Even if outside it was hot, they had lighted the fire and eaten a romantic dinner in front of the fireplace. Now she was lying on the couch, while Jarod sat on the floor in front of her, with a glass of red wine in his hand.
“I thought you don’t like wine, but after tonight I must admit I discovered another thing that I didn’t know about you, and that I like.”
Jarod laughed. “I’m not a great drinker, Parker. But I couldn’t give up a glass of good Chianti in such fascinating company.”
Parker started stroking his hair, Jarod kept staring at the flames in the fireplace.
“Tell me something I don’t know.” he asked her, turning around and looking at her with the eyes of a boy asking his mummy to read a bedtime story.
Parker smiled. She had exactly something in her mind that Jarod couldn’t know.
Jarod’s clone was looking at her with the very same eyes her Jarod had. She saw in Gemini the same agonies that had suffocated Jarod during his years as a prisoner of The Centre. The same insecurities. As she felt like an eleven-year-old girl, she tried to explain why she went visiting him.
“When I was your age, I knew a boy just like you. Exactly like you.”
The young pretender couldn’t understand how much that statement was true.
“I felt for him, but I never let him know…”
The boy was listening to her, almost without breathing.
“I saw...pain... in his eyes...but I looked the other way…I see the same pain in your eyes. But I can't look away anymore.”
“How’s the boy, by the way?” she asked, remembering that in the short time she had spent with him, she grew fond of him very much.
“My father named him Jesse, a name deriving from a word that might mean gift.”
“It’s a lovely name…” she murmured.
Jarod smiled, thinking that he hadn’t seen him for such a long time. Was he growing more and more like him?
“I don’t know why I exposed myself so much with him…Maybe I thought that confessing to him I’ve felt something for you…would have silenced my guilt, at least for a while…”
“This side of yours is so sweet…did you actually realize you felt for me, then?”
She nodded slowly, “Yes…and maybe I would have told you, if you hadn’t kidnapped my father.”
Jarod grimaced, not convinced. But it was such a long time before. He’d never really intended to hurt Mr. Parker. The man had eventually caused his own troubles by himself.
“But I made amends…I stayed with you when they shot you, remember?”
“No…I was unconscious…You didn’t run?”
“I helped my father and Jesse to run, but I didn’t leave with them. You were bleeding so damn much…My life with my family was right there, in front of me, and I was so stupid to stay, stroking your hair with your father glaring at me!”
Parker smiled at the thought, she would have wanted to be awake to see it.
“I wanted to take you to the hospital immediately, but Brigitte prevented me from doing it. That was when I tried to run.”
“And you got caught.”
“You know what was the first thing I thought when I got back to The Centre?”
She shook her head.
“That you would have died without knowing the truth about my real feelings for you…They didn’t even tell me if you were dead or alive, when they confined you in that lonely hospital, and I didn’t know if you were safe.”
“Another cruelty to be charged on my lovely brother’s account when it’s time to deal with him…And…Another kiss to put into account on you.” she said leaning and kissing him.
Parker yawned. All those conversations had tired her more than the last ten chases of Jarod.
“Wanna go to sleep?”
“No…I like the idea of you and me talking…it’s like…we opened a Pandora’s box. I’d be glad if you told me everything, anything you feel to say, even insults!”
Jarod smiled, reckoning that was the right occasion to play a joke on her. She wanted to know everything? So that was the time to satisfy her.
“Ok, Parker. Well, I must confess, I’ve noticed one thing. You put on some weight, since we went on the island.”
Parker stared at him and opened her mouth. That was true, in the last period she had put on a couple of pounds. The uneasiness for not hearing news from Jarod (not even at the phone) had been remarkable in the last two months, and she had found comfort in food. But she couldn’t have showed!
Parker stood and sat, without saying a word.
Jarod secretly enjoyed this, trying to keep a serious face. He wanted to see her mad, to see what she would say.
“Well, Jarod…Then I must admit…you have definitely a few more gray hairs.” she replied.
Jarod smiled, “Oh, do I?”
That said, he got on the couch above her and started to kiss her hungrily, trying not to give in to the instinct to undress her. When his lips left hers, the fire crackles filled the silence in the room. Her beautiful light blue eyes looked again at him in huge desire.
“Have I already told you…how beautiful you are?”
She nodded.!“You’re too much in love to see my faults, but I’ve got many.”
“No, Parker” he answered, kissing her neck. “You don’t.”
“Mmm…We should have done this five years ago!” she finally said.
Jarod couldn’t do anything but smile.
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