The comforting warmth of sunlight against my cheek wakes me. I’m curled up on a wide couch in a very spacious living room. The light is pouring through huge balcony windows with a stunning view of the city; I must be more than ten storeys up. Grant’s condo, I realize, having been here before a handful of times.
There are boxes scattered across the hardwood floor – the only mess in an otherwise posh and impeccable room. It looks like someone is moving in. Brie. Talking to a friend, someone I’ve trusted for years, is exactly what I need right now. I push away the light blanket draped over me and notice, with overdue embarrassment, that I’m still in my bra. I see a plain black t-shirt, probably Brie’s, folded neatly on the table across from me. I try to sit up, but every muscle in my body protests. It takes the better part of five minutes before I’m finally upright and longer still before I manage to pull the shirt over my head.
I hear a voice from around the corner and footsteps shuffling back and forth. My knees crack as I stand, but soon I am walking, using the walls as supports.
“Brie?” I call out, turning the corner into a large, black and white-tiled, kitchen. Grant is standing alone, phone in his hand – his only hand – as if he has just hung up. He’s already dressed in a sky blue dress shirt, burnt orange tie and slate grey slacks. His right sleeve is tied, just past the elbow.
“She’s not here. I just got off the phone with her,” he hesitates and looks at the ground, as if he’s ashamed, “She… she doesn’t know about this. About you being here. About Hunter. As far as she knows I’m one hundred percent on Harvey’s side.”
“You aren’t?” I ask, feeling like I missed something crucial last night.
He sighs and looks at the clock, then back to me. He motions for me to sit down at the breakfast bar and starts making me a tea. “Green or Earl Grey?” he asks, and I’m surprised that he remembers what I drink.
“The Grey, please,” I answer. He nods and starts talking while he works away, putting some bread into the toaster and pushing a bowl of fruit in front of me.
“You were out cold last night. Hunter had to carry you to the elevator,” he pauses in his work to gesture towards his right side. I wrap my arms around myself, shivering at the thought of Hunter’s hands on my body, “I can’t imagine what people must have thought of us lugging you around. I didn’t know where your keys were, so I couldn’t take you home…”
A sudden curiosity builds as I watch Grant fill a kettle with his left arm. “So it’s okay for you to drive like that?”
“Of course not. At least not until they finish my prosthesis and I do some assessment or something,” he answers, shrugging dismissively.
“Right,” I say after waiting a couple of minutes for him to acknowledge the obvious implication that he was driving only last night. I change the subject, not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, “What were you saying about Yag… Harvey? Are you like… a double agent or something?”
He stops moving around and meets my eye before asking, “What do you remember about the last time you sang? In that really nice club?”
I tell him that I remember everything, and that I know the man was Harvey Yagher.
“Good,” he says, and turns back around to butter the toast, “It was around the same time I was starting to consider leaving my family. Just… living a normal life instead of the stupid political games and bids for power. As I was distancing myself, I made some new allies and connections from other families. Ones that might help protect me if Solomon House decided it was worth charging me with treason. Harvey was one of those allies. He helped me and in return I promised to keep an eye on someone for him.”
“Me,” I say, the pieces falling into place. Though we all attended the same school, Brie and Grant met by chance at a house party. A party Brie dragged me to (against my will I might add). Apparently it wasn’t a coincidence that they met around the same time I stopped singing. There’s a niggling concern I can’t ignore – a question I’m afraid to ask. It would be easier to just forget about it, but for Brie’s sake I can’t: “What about Brie? Was that just convenience? It sure has made it a lot easier for you to keep tabs on me.”
He whips around to face me and slams his hand down on the counter. I’m still jumpy from last night; I fly off of the stool and almost scream. He speaks slowly, annunciating each word: “Don’t you ever question my feelings for Brie. I told Harvey I was done watching you. Because I knew eventually they’d target Brie if I didn’t get away from her. If Hunter hadn’t tipped Jason off that Trent was coming for me…”
“I’m sorry Grant,” I say, holding my hands up in surrender, “I love her too. I had to be sure.”
He stares me down for another minute, then nods. “You’re right. I would have questioned you if the tables were turned.”
“But why did Hunter try and warn you? How do you know him? Yagher says he’s best friends with Johannes.”
“I was getting there,” he says, sliding me the plate of toast before sitting across from me and continuing, “Our families were friends, so we saw each other a bit as kids. Johannes hung around the skin mages a lot, but I hardly think you’d call them ‘friendly.’ Hunter disappeared a few years ago and then approached me back in May. He’s been reaching out to a lot of mages on both sides of… well… of the conflict.” He pauses to see if I’m following.
“Yagher filled me in a little,” I say.
“Alright. Well, Hunter has this sort of… philosophy. He’s a lot more eloquent than I am, but basically he thinks it’s unfair for people to have to pick sides. He thinks it’s bullshit that innocent people are getting caught in the crossfire of a war they don’t even know exists. That the people who do know are being forced to accept ideals they don’t even understand. Or being bullied into doing whatever their family wants. You can ask him more about it, but the point is I agree with him and if Harvey found out he’d hold me in contempt. At best. At worst he’d lock me up and call me a spy. He’s a bit…”
“Zealous?” I suggest and Grant nods.
“And if he finds Hunter… he’ll kill him without hesitation. So keep this whole thing to yourself okay? I know Mirena did a number on you yesterday, but Harvey’s not going to be able help much anyway. Even if you reported her.”
“I don’t intend to tell Yagher any of this,” I realize it’s the truth as I say it. I can picture the righteous anger on his face if I did. That coldness that creeps into his eyes when he talks about right and wrong. I’m beginning to understand why I’ve never been entirely open with him. The fact that he’s been keeping such a massive secret about me, even after inquiring about my singing, doesn’t improve my opinion of him either.
Grant thinks for a long time before saying in a guilty voice, “It’s not that Harvey is a bad guy, Selene. His family arguably has the most power out of any of them, and he’s the heir. His life’s been full of secrets, just like any of us. Mine too. It can be a hard habit to kick.”
“I know,” I say quietly.
“Come on,” he grins, “I’ll drive you home before work.”
When we get to my building, Grant asks about a hundred times whether I’m okay. I can tell that Brie has informed him of my history of depression. I’ve never told her about the cutting, and I pray that Grant didn’t notice the scars last night.
“Grant, I’ve survived two psychos now… pretty sure I’ll be okay on my own for a couple of hours.”
“It’s just that… Mirena… I know what she can do. I’ve seen it. I’ve… I’ve felt it. She used to practice on the younger kids when she was training. Sometimes it takes a while to heal,” he confesses.
I keep forgetting that Grant was part of this family. That he was raised around people like her. And Hunter too.
“What about Hunter? Did he practice on you too?”
“Hunter?” he asks, surprised, “No. I don’t think Hunter has ever so much as shaken my hand. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him touch anyone. Well… except last night.”
This bothers me immensely. I walk away from his car toward the front doors of the building as he, once more, shouts out to ask if I’m alright. I wave him off and he idles a little while longer until I disappear toward the stairwell to the right.