The Sequence of Kai
I surely cut a striking figure walking back through the city. A girl with half an outfit, running makeup and a bloody pillow.
Anyone who saw me must’ve thought I was in a bad way. I saw a couple of people take out their phones, probably to call the police. They know well enough at this stage to leave me alone, so it’s not an issue.
I do still take the scenic route to avoid too many eyes on me. The police I can deal with, being on the evening news I can’t, at least not bloodlessly. Alerting the wider world of my presence isn’t something I want happening. I need that world to stay away from here, for as long as I can keep it away.
It doesn’t take me that long to get back to Paul’s, so the sun still hasn’t set by the time I’m in the door.
I can tell the instant I’m inside that Aaron is waiting for me in the front room to the right of the hall. It’s the perfect place to ambush visitors from, situated just between the door and the stairs so that you can intercept whoever it is you’re waiting for, close enough to the door that you can hear it opening even if the opener is being discreet and it’s got the only TV in the house, so it offers a route of denial.
Sure enough, before I even close the front door fully, he’s out in the hallway, blocking my path to the stairs.
“What did you do?”
I brush straight past him, so he grabs my wrist to pull me back. He lets go pretty quickly; he’s got a keen sense for people’s state of mind if nothing else. I start up the stairs.
“Did you kill him?”
“You expect me to believe you when you look like that?”
“Why bother asking if you were only going to believe one answer? Idiot.”
I continue up the stairs without looking back at him.
“Ask Paul, he’ll know I didn’t kill him.”
As I make it to the top of the stairs he storms off into Paul’s office. I haven’t seen him this heated in a long time. He starts shouting at Paul the second he enters.
I can hear him being wrong from up here, calling me a murderer, ascribing motives to my actions, demanding I get thrown out.
I’m not a murderer anymore. I don’t have any motives. I’m not going anywhere.
I don’t bother knocking on Trish’s door, so she’s surprised by my entrance. She clutches her covers up over her body to hide it, even though she’s fully clothed.
“Kyah! Kai, what are you doing?”
“Glad to see you’re feeling better. Read this.”
I hold the pillow out in front of me. Trish takes in the message and looks up at me with worried eyes.
“Kai, what’s going on? Aaron wouldn’t tell me anything, he just said you were going to do something dangerous.”
“Am I even capable of doing anything dangerous?”
“That’s not the point!”
She can hear just as well as I can the argument going on downstairs. Aaron wants me gone but for some reason, Paul is defending me. I can’t imagine why. I better get down there and fight my own battles.
She calls out to me with a voice weaker than her own. Even if she’s awake she’s not recovered physically or mentally. Probably both.
“What did Elm do? He’s got a hand, doesn’t he? What did he do to us?”
“It’s nothing you should worry yourself about, just get some rest.”
“I’m going to keep worrying if you keep disappearing off on your own.”
She attacks these things smarter than Aaron ever could. Emotional prodding is much more effective than direct questions. It makes me feel like I owe her at least a lie.
“I had to do this one by myself.”
“But you always try to do these things by yourself.”
Our conversation is interrupted by a loud crash, the distinct sound of a tonne of books crashing to the ground downstairs.
“Stay in bed.”
I give Trish her orders and rush to Paul’s office. Aaron has him pushed up against the bookcase on the left-hand side of the room.
“Give me a reason! Tell me why you keep protecting her! Say something!”
“Get off him, Aaron.”
Aaron looks over at me. He’s furious. He seems to have no intention of backing down but he suddenly drops his hands.
Trish has appeared behind me, that’s what the creaking floorboards say, what his change of expression tells me. Paul stands up and brushes himself down before heading back to his desk to write. Even now he can’t stop.
This stokes Aaron’s anger once more but knowing Trish is there he doesn’t lay a finger on Paul’s body.
“Is that stupid book really so important? Is protecting Kai really worth whatever it is you want from her?”
Paul ignores him completely and just keeps writing. Trish rushes in from behind me and grabs Aaron by the arm.
“Aaron stop! You need to calm down, talk this out when everyone is calm.”
She tugs on his arm, but he won’t move. He keeps his gaze focused on Paul.
“I’ve tried being calm, I’ve tried talking this out, but I keep getting ignored. Why do we let Kai near us? Isn’t she the sort of person we’re meant to be stopping?! Why am I being told I’m crazy for not wanting to eat next to a killer?! We didn’t run away with you to be complicit to even more violence!”
The tears won’t stop streaming down Trish’s face. I stand at the back of the room in silence. It’s not my place to speak. I may be the subject of debate, but the conversion isn’t about me. Not really.
“Answer me, Paul. Am I not worth an answer? Are we not worth an answer to you anymore? Are we less important than that damn book?”
“Of course not…”
Paul finally speaks but doesn’t break the flow of his writing. He’s trying very hard to remain composed.
“Oh, so now we’re deserving of an answer? You’ll speak to us when we speak about the book, is that it?”
Paul snaps the quill between his fingers in frustration. He looks up at Aaron, his eyes alive for the first time in years.
“You want answers, boy? You can have answers; you don’t need me to tell you the answers, you’re more capable of finding them than I am! You just don’t want to find the answers you know are there. You should know why I can’t stop writing, you should know why we need Kai and you should know nothing could ever be more important to me than the two of you! That’s why I can’t stop writing……”
His eyes grow slightly duller as his anger fades and picks up the half of a quill he still has and starts writing again. The look on Aaron’s face paints no coherent picture. I can’t tell if he’s more angry, disappointed or confused right now. He turns to Trish.
“How can you be comfortable with this? I know you; you wouldn’t be OK with murder.”
“I didn’t murder anyone, asshole.”
I jump in to rescue Trish from having to answer him.
“Of course, you did, you still reek of fresh blood.”
“She didn’t kill him.”
Paul is the one to interject this time.
“But she was willing to, she was-”
Trish, who has managed to get her emotions under control, yanks Aaron off to the side and starts yelling at him. He yells back. It’s one of those screaming matches where the words don’t matter, they could be speaking different languages and it would still be just as heated.
It’s a lucky break for me though, I can talk to Paul and then get out of here.
“Where is he right now?”
“At St. Ambrose’s, he’s been there for the last 10 minutes.”
That bastard! He’s probably trying to save his gospels before I can get to them. I turn heel and head for the door but Aaron grabs me forcefully by the shoulder. This time he doesn’t let go.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?”
“I’m going to tidy up some loose ends.”
“You mean you’re going to kill this guy, don’t you? Tell the truth for once.”
“I gave him a chance to live, he didn’t take it.”
“People shouldn’t have to choose to live.”
“Well, they do.”
I turn to leave but he still won’t let go. Trish looks on nervously from her seat on the ground, at some point her legs must’ve lost their strength, she’s still exhausted after what happened last night.
“If you leave now, Trish and I will be gone by the time you get back.”
I lean in close to his face so only he can hear me. His warm breath hits my cheek, my cold breath hits his.
“I don’t give a fuck if you leave but she better be here when I return.”
I try to turn and leave once more but he still won’t let go.
“We’re not done here.”
“I’m not letting go until you agree to stay put.”
I’m getting fed up, so I grab his wrist just soft enough to not break it. This time I pull him in towards me.
“Don’t make me hurt you while she’s watching.”
I let go of his wrist and this time he has the good sense not to grab me again. I turn my back on him and leave the room. No argument erupts as I exit, the house merely falls to silence again, as if I’m taking the noise with me.