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Episode VI Intermission: New Divide


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New Divide

I remembered black skies
The lightning all around me
I remembered each flash
As time began to blur
Like a startling sign
That fate had finally found me
And your voice was all I heard


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Marias Medical Center.  Evening.

Hospital staff stood behind their stations and patrolled the halls on their rounds as Devin made his way through the white tiled passageway within Marias Medical Center.  He recognized a few of the faces from the secret base in the sub-basement levels beneath the complex, the ‘security’ here were sometimes swapped out with military personnel to better keep an eye on everything going on both above and below ground in the strange town of Shelly, Montana.

The plastic wrapping in his hand crinkled as he held the several flowers wrapped therein tightly.  Roses, her favorite.  White, pink and red petals offered a contrast to the bland white walls and doors and the ugly woodgrain handrail that split the hallways down their center.  The familiar scent of all the sanitizers assaulted his senses while in the back if his mind he mused that with all the time he’d been spending here recently that they should give him a job.

He tapped three times on her door before letting himself in.  With a nudge of his shoulder, he rolled along the door and into the room Tawny had been calling home for the last few days since her abduction and assault by the Not-Cody creature.  She was still in bed, IV running and heart monitor still beeping away despite her being in relatively good health.  She was tapping something away on her phone as he entered and her face lit up, her smile a panacea for the all the negativity in his life lately.

“Heeeeey,” she beamed as her phone dropped into the roiling folds of the fluffy blanket her parents had brought her from home.  She leaned to face him, holding her arms out wide expectantly for the hug he owed her.  Tightly he held onto her, the plastic crinkling like a bag of chips with a very low chance of surviving an upcoming movie night.  “Are those for me?”  She asked when they finally broke their embrace.  She already knew the answer, but like most people, didn’t assume.

“Um, y-yeah,” he replied almost breathlessly.  He didn’t understand why he was so embarrassed or anxious to be delivering flowers to his best friend.  “Hope you like them; I got your favorite.  Figured some color…” he paused and looked around the room where a variety of floral arrangements from her own family and the families of the Fellowship along with what everyone at the school had sent her and realized that, maybe he thought too small.  He hesitated with his next words, something uncommon for the normally flippant teenager.  “Oh, uh...,” he chuckled.  “Guess you kinda got the hook up on color.  My bad.”

“They’re beautiful, thank you.”  She smiled back, punctuating his chuckle with one of her own.  “Guess all it takes to get people to stop treating you like a bible thumping freakshow,” she gestured at all the arrangements.  “Is to get kidnapped by a demon.  Who would’ve thought, right?”  Devin smiled, but he didn’t say anything.  His eyes seemed lost in all the arrangements and as he looked at them, he seemed to look past them.  “Hey, you okay?  I know that face.  What’s up?”

“I uh,” he approached the other arrangements strewn all over the room in front of her bed.  They covered the stand under her television, they were resting in the chair, on the windowsill, everywhere.  “I just have a lot on my mind.  Not sure how it all fits together or what I should do about it all.”  He placed the roses with another arrangement, resting them gently alongside the one the PTA had sent her.  He saw the small card his mother had signed with a few words of well wishes.  His stomach tightened at the thought of dealing with his family after he’d left Marias.  “But, it’ll work itself out or it won’t right?”

“In time,” she said cheerfully.  “Anything I can help with?  I’ve been out of the drama for all of forty-eight hours, I’m famished.  Oh, how’s Em?”

“She’s okay, I guess.”  He shrugged and approached the foot of her bed.  “We visited you yesterday, but you were still pretty tired.  We caught you sleeping.  Look, um, I know Marissa can be a pain in the ass, Tee, but,” he paused, taking a breath to collect his thoughts.  Here he was, fighting with his sister and the two of them weren’t talking and yet still, he couldn’t help but defend and protect her.  “She really does care about you, you know?  It broke her heart to see you hurt, Tee, like someone had gone after family.  I just wanted you to know that… she does love you.”

She gave him a confused look as if to say ‘why are you telling me this’ with nothing more than her expression.  “Devin,” her voice wavered as her confusion found its way into her words.  “I know that.  Marissa’s mean girl act hasn’t worked on me since I told her about my Chris Evans dream and she told me about her Mathew Daddario, Zac Efron and Emeraude Toubia four-way fantasy.”  Devin tilted his head slightly at that revelation.  Tawny just shrugged, seeing the ‘WTH’ wrapped tightly in his expression.  “I know, I know, the girl needs Jesus.  Like, for real.”

“No,” he shook his head, managing a half grin.  “She’d probably sleep with him too.”

A snort escaped Tawny before she covered her mouth and then face in mild embarrassment.  “I shouldn’t laugh at that.”  The corners of her wide smile were escaping along the edges of her delicate hands.

Still, he hesitated, despite the ice breaker his mind was still wrapped up on all that had happened, how he felt, what he’d gone through and the revelations he’d discovered in his, and the Fellowship’s, venture to rescue her and Sophia from the Hellscape the Not-Cody was hiding in.  Still though, how was he supposed to come to terms with feelings that he didn’t even understand.  Last week he was telling Tawny, and getting yelled at for it, that he couldn’t or didn’t, rather, love her the way she loved him and now here he was… trying to tell her how he felt, and he couldn’t even get the first sentence out.  Christ, dude, come on.  Just tell her.  He mentally chastised himself.

“So, um, I came to realize something too,” nervously he picked at the footboard of her hospital bed.  “I, uh… I uh, know that we kind of talked about this last week, but uhh…”

She chuckled, finding his bashfulness to broach whatever subject he was trying to touch on.  “Deej, come on.  It’s me.  You can tell me anything.  We talked about a lot of things last week, be specific.”

“I want to be with you.”  He said with more conviction and honestly than any words he’d ever spoken in his life.  “Something changed when I felt like I would never see you again Tee.  My heart, I guess… realized I am wasting an opportunity to be with that someone.”

“You loved Lona two weeks ago,” she countered in a tone that told him she was not finding this joke at all funny.

“Yeah, I know, I know…” he raised his hands to his head, shaking them as if to clear his mind from a fog.  “Look, Lona and I didn’t last long, and I care a lot about her.  She opened my eyes to the fact that I could, maybe, possibly be wrong about overlooking people superficially when they are, in fact, truly wonderful on the inside.  So, yes, she holds a very special place in my heart, no doubt.”  He sighed deeply.  Resting on the footboard of her bed he leaned in on the support of his arms and looked at her.  “But when you were taken, something in me Tee, something in me just woke up.  For you I could overcome any fear, fight when I have nothing left, for you I’ve literally walked through Hell and would do so a thousand more times.”

She shook her head as the anxiety goblins began tying her gut up into knots.  “Devin, no,” she said calmly.  “Don’t.  Don’t do this.”  She’d just been told she could go home in the morning; she was looking to getting her life back in order, she’d been talking all morning and afternoon with Jacob: her new boyfriend.  Her first boyfriend… and in came the whirling dramanado that was the Jauntsens.  If she swore, then the Devil would be blushing with the thoughts in her mind that were swirling into storm clouds.

“Do, what?” He shrugged.  “So, we’re from ‘you can tell me anything’ to ‘anything… except that?’  I can’t help it Tee, it’s been eating me alive and with all the other crap going on in my life I just wanted to come and get it off my chest, to tell the one person in my life who understands me better than anyone that I get it now.  I was an idiot, I know that, but you were right.  I was blind and being stubborn and I was letting the greatest opportunity in my life get away from-”

“Let.” She corrected him.  When he stopped to process her reply, she looked at him with serious eyes.  “You let me walk away.  Deej, I’m sorry.  I’m with Jacob.”

“For Homecoming, yeah, I know.  I’m taking Cassie.  It’s no big.  I’m not saying right now, Tee.  You’ve been through a lot and I’m not trying to push or anything, we both have plans for Homecoming.  To not make it weird we just go about our lives, and we can maybe talk later, after afterwards, you know?”  He shrugged with a weak smile on his face.  She’d never seen Devin unable to muster his iron-clad composure veiled behind quips and sarcasm, yet here he was, barely able to argue his way out of a hole he’d dug for himself.

“Lord in Heaven, Deejay, you’re not listening.  No.  Not just for Homecoming,” her cheeks reddened as the blonde bit her lips and shook her head in frustration.  She bordered on furious, and her day was going so well too.  “You destroyed me that day, Devin.  Ruined me.”  The redness in her cheeks began to swell into moisture in her eyes.  “I quit pining for a guy who was never emotionally or mentally available for me, let alone mature enough to think that maybe, just maybe that if he wanted to be loved he had to try and love me back.  You don’t love me, Devin.  You love the idea of me: pretty, fawning all over you, willing to just do anything and everything while I hang on your every word-”

“No, Tee, it’s not like-”

“No, you spoke, it’s my turn.” She practically snarled at him as the first tear ran down her cheek.  “And now that I’m with someone, now that I’ve gotten over being that stupid obsessed girl who’s been in love with you since the day I met you, now… now you want to come in here and ruin that for me, too?  How petty are you?  You don’t want me Devin, you just don’t want me with him.”  She’d not gotten over him and she knew it.  The thought of Devin being in love with her and them being together was something she’d dreamt about for years, but there was just too much hurt now, too much drama.  She knew the moment she ran to him it’d be great for a few weeks until he got bored and ran off to some new crush.  It was Devin, after all.

“No.”  He argued.  “I don’t care that you’re with him, I don’t.  I dropped the ball, I get that.  Tee, I’ve never been surer of anything in my life, and we have years of friendship.  You’ve been seeing him for what?  Less than a week?  All I’m asking for is a chance, I swear to you I’m not the guy I was-”

“A week ago?”  Her lips pursed in doubt and she goose-necked like she was straight outta Harlem, were they pulling girls aside in school now and showing them how to scold dudes?  “You managed to find some life affirming guru on a mountain summit who’s totally made you rethink how much of an unfaithful, immature, emotionally unavailable jerk of a man-slut you are who, after three frickin’ years still doesn’t even know my favorite flowers are daisies!  Daisies, Devin!  My best friend of three years would have known that, but I suppose it’s hard to hear me talk about my favorite things over the sound of your own inflated ego whistling one-liners and balloon-farting your ‘oh-so-cooler than everyone else’ macho bull crud at decibels only you can’t hear!  You don’t care about anyone but your own selfish, arrogant self!”  The words escaped her lips before she thought about what she was really saying.  Maybe it was the pain meds she was on that had dampened her usual bright and cheerful filters or maybe, she was just mad at him, and the drugs helped her finally speak her mind to the man who’d kept breaking her heart and making her a love-drunk laughingstock.  Either way, what she said wasn’t intended and she certainly felt, now that she’d heard it out loud, that it was far harsher than it needed to be.

“Wow,” all he did was nod slowly nod his head.

Sobriety came swiftly after words uttered behind anger and fear.  She cupped her mouth briefly to collect her thoughts and finally, as she lowered her hands, calmly tried to make amends.  “Devin, I didn’t mean it like tha-”

“Like what?”  He backed away from her bed, arms splayed out, putting himself on display for more judgements.  “How many other ways can that be meant?  What guru on the summit are you talking to that can make ‘you’re a shit human being, Devin’ come out sounding like ‘wow, I’m so glad we’re friends, bestie’.”  Now it was Devin whose eyes seemed to moisten as anger and embarrassment mad their home behind his eyes.  “It’s all good though, Theresa.”  Like an angry parent, the use of her given name told her that he’d taken what she’d said really personal.  “Better the truth is out there to avoid confusion later.  So, you have Jacob, cool.  Enjoy.  Sorry to bother you with all this petty bullshit I call ‘my emotions’.  It’s just me being immature, I guess, but don’t worry, it won’t happen again.”

“Devin, I didn’t mean it like that.”  Truer words were never spoken.  Tawny loved Devin, she knew she always would and knew in her heart that she never wanted them to be apart.  Even if they never ended up together, and realistically most high school friends didn’t, she just wanted him to always be in her life even years from now when they both had families of their own, meeting up for a weekend barbecue or horseback riding.  She was not a hurtful person, she didn’t entertain negative thoughts about people but when it came to her best friend, the love of her life… well, he just got her so dang gum mad.  He was everything she just said he was, but also wonderful and loving and compassionate… and the hospital drugs really weren’t helping.  “I’m just angry and overwhelmed.  They have me on som-”

“No.  You spoke.  It’s my turn.”  He tok’d that back at her with the skill and grace Serena Williams going for a gold.  “You see me in the halls?  Keep on walking to Jacob.  You walk past my house?  Keep walking to Jacobs’.  I’m sorry to have bothered you with all my petty, immature bullshit.”  He turned to walk away and made it three paces before he suddenly turned back to face her.  “You know… I don’t even know why I bother with people anymore.  You’re all the same.  I’m done with you.  All of you.  You and Jason and Autumn, Marissa and my parents… I mean Jesus fuck!  You think I don’t know how I am?  You think I don’t know?  I invented me, and I can reinvent me.  So, keep on seeing whatever person gives you the best reason to make whatever excuses push you through the day just so long as you, and everyone else, do me a favor, Theresa… just keep.  Fucking.  Walking.   I’m already tired of protecting a world that can’t even protect itself.”

“Devin!” She raised her voice above his raising up to her knees in the hospital bed to assert a measure of control over the situation.  “Lord in Heaven, calm down!  I said I didn’t-” She winced, her eyes squinting at the sudden blast of violet energy and displaced atmosphere.  She sighed and collapsed back into her bed, choking back tears as her best friend just literally broke up with her before teleporting away with the last word.  “Oh…” she sniffled, wiping her cheek.  That is getting so dang annoying.”

The night air was bitter and cold, but Devin didn’t feel it.  He was numb from pain and emotional anguish.  He shuffled down the residential street, he wasn’t sure which one and he didn’t rightly care, his arms slouched, and his head seem to hang lazily on his shoulders like it was too heavy to be supported by his lack of caring anymore.  Cars were parked on either side of the road, shadowed by the dull white light of the streetlights that bleached the road in a slick sheen.  His breath danced in the air as the Montana Autumn was swiftly gaining traction in the small northern town.  The streets were empty and the silence in the air was almost deafening when one was left with nothing but their own thoughts.

A thousand things danced through his mind like a parade of mad demons in the narrow hallways of his headspace, opening every door they passed screaming loudly and stepping in long enough to trash the place and then move on.  His mother was a roving nightmare and anger and selfishness on par with his sister.  All she wanted was control over her children and their abilities, possibly in some scheme to profit from the stardom that could come from them being some new manner of ‘super beings’.  His father put up a good face in public and he’d play the good dad role for a few days at home, but soon it’d be right back to the bottle and not caring what his son or daughter was doing or whose lives they were ruining.

Marissa was just typical Marissa, unwilling to accept her part in any of the fiasco around her but quick to remind everyone of their part.  The Fellowship was a mess.  They didn’t want leadership or oversight to make sure they were going to perform their duties of protecting the world responsibly, all they desired was the free reign to act with impunity on the off chance they screwed up and could shrug and pull a classic ‘my bad’ and go on through life ignoring that it ever happened.

 Yet he just couldn’t bring himself to care.  Maybe Jason was right.  Maybe life was just as easy as he made it out to be just do whatever you want, hurt whomever you please and just shrug and say ‘I did what I did, oh well’.  After all, no matter what Devin did or how hard he tried no one was going to see him as anything more than the wise cracking, afraid of commitment, smart ass, right?  Being tasked with protecting the world, seemed like a waste of time.  Sure, Cassie deserved to have her father back and that… other kid deserved to be home with his family, but… why was he fighting to protect a world that didn’t want peace or happiness?  All the people of the world just wanted to fight and judge and cast stones at everyone else.  He should know, he did it all the time.

Maybe Jason and the Fellowship were right: no leadership, no rules, just everyone doing as they please shrugging off the responsibility.  He stopped and inhaled, letting his breath clear his thoughts.  Yes, the world was a stupid place and didn’t make any sense.  Yes, The Fellowship didn’t make any sense either, but they didn’t want leadership and oversight, so they weren’t his problem to deal with unless they threatened the world.  It would have been so easy to simply pull a Joker and have a ‘wait til they get a load of me’ moment, but that just wasn’t him.  Let the world and everyone in it see him as the selfish, quipping, smart ass.  With a shrug he could remind them ‘yup, oh well’ and get onto important things.  Let the Fellowship stay stoned and keep dealing all the drugs and sit about playing all the video games and doing airplanes in the yard until they were blue in the face.  They weren’t his problem.

He exhaled softly, relaxing.  He’d told Tawny how he felt, and he meant it.  They were done, sure, and just because he didn’t want anything more to do with her didn’t mean those words were hollow.  Love didn’t die just because friendship did.  He knew what she thought of him now, and that was fine, it was certainly her right to do so and he couldn’t say, honestly, that he was blameless.  Whether he was at fault, in whole or in part, wasn’t the issue, the issue was: sometimes the hero didn’t get the girl, sometimes the hero didn’t get the happy ending he was hoping for, but he still had a job to do.  She was with Jacob now, and Jacob would protect her while Devin protected the world and that’s just the way it would be.

Let them stay stoned and wasted.

Let them play their video games and waste away.

Let them love and be happy.

Let them be.

Devin Jaunt had a job to do.

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