Grant has been stopping in a lot lately. He’ll just suddenly be at my door in the morning, before either of us leave for work. He has a coffee, complains about the fitting for his prosthesis, gives me some updates on Yagher, and asks how I’m doing. I think he’s checking in on me. I’m starting to understand what Brie’s been going on and on about all these years – he might seem like a preppy narcissist, but he’s there when you really need him. And he’s certainly easy to talk to.
But there is one thing he never seems to mention. A deliberate avoidance I need him to acknowledge. One morning, as he slips into his jacket at the apartment door, I decide to confront him. I gather my courage, still sitting at the kitchen table and gazing down at the muddy bruises on my wrists.
“Grant,” I start as he pulls on his shiny black dress shoes with his left hand. He turns to look at me and I instinctually turn my face away, towards the balcony window, “How is Hunter? Is he okay?”
After a brief silence, I turn back to look at him. He stands straight, his right foot still without a shoe, and his mouth twisted in concern.
“What? Did something happen to him?”
“No. Hunter’s fine.”
“Oh,” it isn’t enough, and he knows it. I press further, “That’s all?”
“I just… really shouldn’t talk about him,” he looks down at his watch and then up to the ceiling before letting out an exaggerated sigh, “I swear you’re worse than Brie for making me late. Alright, fine.”
He takes his shoe off again and comes to sit in the chair across from mine.
“Why doesn’t he want me to know about him?” As I say the words I’m surprised by how much they sting. I wonder if I’ve done something wrong. I did yell at him when he offered to help me up and, according to Grant, that may have been a rare act of trust. Did I manage to push him away before I even knew him?
Grant looks at my face and says, as if reading my mind, “Selene, it’s nothing you did. The protection spell that night, the whole point was to keep you from getting caught up in all… this. Our world. Our conflict. And here you are right in the middle of it. He feels responsible for everything, and if Yagher ever caught wind that you were kind to him, well… who knows what he’d do.”
“Why me? Why protect me in the first place? There were tons of people at that party that needed to be protected. And what the hell does Yagher have against him anyway? Just because he’s Solomon House?” My head is spinning and nothing is making sense. I feel like a child playing a game where only the adults know the rules.
“He’s not Solomon House, he’s Freyja, and for the record he didn’t know Johannes was going to go on a massacre. The protection spell was a… precaution. It wasn’t even the main component of the spell. He wanted to give you back your memories. So… so you could sing again.”
Now he’s the one refusing the meet my eye. He’s not supposed to be telling me this. Again I’m caught up in some grand secret that involves other people meddling in my life. “Why? How does he even know about that? Grant, what the fuck is going on here?”
“Selene, look, it’s not as bad as it seems… but it’s not my story to tell. You need to talk to Hunter.”
“You’re damned right I do, but right now you’re the one who’s here and I want to know why everyone else seems to know more about my life than I do.” Three years spent in limbo. I lost everything when I lost my voice. Why was Hunter trying to give it back? Oh, God. Was he trying to kill Yagher?
“Okay. Okay. But you’re going to see Hunter after and tell him this was your idea. I’m just the messenger, remember?”
I glare at him, relentless until he begins.
“Hunter was there, the night you gave up singing. He was at the bar. So was Harvey. It was coincidence but… this is going to sound horrible. Look, you have to remember, you don’t know everything that’s happened. Hunter…”
He cringes like it’s physically painful to relate, like maybe I’ll cut him a break. I don’t.
“What happened?” I demand.
“Hunter tried to kill Harvey. He did kill him. The only reason he’s alive is because you happened to be there that night. His father stayed to watch you finish the last set, but when he left he found Harvey bleeding out in an alleyway. He saw you walk by.”
I remember the scars covering Yagher’s body. His clothes that night, soaked in blood. That was Hunter, I tell myself, the man who saved your life.
“What you don’t know is that Hunter was still there. He watched what you did. How you didn’t even hesitate to give up everything to save the life of a stranger. He watched them take your memory. Selene, what you did that night changed the way he thought of people. It defied everything he’d been taught to believe. He felt responsible for everything that happened to you. He wanted to give you back your voice.”
I shake my head, tears rolling down my cheeks, “At the expense of Yagher’s life.”
“No,” Grant interjects, “He wanted to fix all of it. He’s been trailing Yagher, waiting for the moment when you would be able to sing. When the spell would be broken. He was going to make his own sacrifice and save him again. A trade, for your sacrifice.”
Who is this man, I wonder, why is he doing this? “What was he going to sacrifice?”
“His magic,” Grant shudders, his arms subconsciously wrapping around his body, “He was going to sacrifice his magic to save Harvey’s life. Then you would be able to live your life and Harvey might hear him out. But when you came back to save Brie that night, you ended up meeting Harvey and getting dragged into our war. And then when you got your memories back, you still refused to sing.” He chuckles nervously.
“What was I supposed to do?” I ask in defeat, “I remembered everything.”
“If you hadn’t come back to save us, you probably would have just dismissed those memories as a dream.”
He’s right. If I hadn’t already believed in magic, I probably would have thought the dream was a manifestation of all the guilt I associate with singing. I’m sure my shrink would have found some elegant explanation for the entire thing. It frightens me how different my life would be at this moment, how different the lives of so many people would be, if I had turned away that night.
“Selene,” Grant calls my attention back to him, “I have to go. I’m sorry it’s so much to take in. Look, I’ll write Hunter’s address down. Just talk to him. I’ll let him know you’re coming.”
He gets up and finds a notepad hanging on the fridge and a pen on the table. He scribbles down an address and slides it over to me. As he pulls out his phone, he asks when I think I’ll be able to see Hunter.
“Now,” I glance at the address, “Where is this?”
“Southwest. Near the Hudsmouth arena.”
“In about two hours then.”
“Selene, you can’t possibly be thinking of walking there. And don’t you have a shift?” I can tell by the pitch of his voice that he’s returning to full mother-mode, so I focus all of my energy into the most no-bullshit stare I can manage.
“I can drop you off…”
“Alright, alright. I’ll let him know.”