I'm not entirely sure of the value of X.
Follow the trail.
That was all she thought, all she needed to think. She knew what she needed to do, who she needed to see, and how to find him. The two men following her, however, only knew the first of these three things. They would follow her wherever she went, because only she could see the trail. The golden glow of her eyes matched that of the pendant she wore about her neck, and her second sight told her exactly where to go to find him. Other than that, she had no idea how to navigate. Of course, that meant that her pursuers probably didn’t either. Which is why, even though her sight told her to turn right, she turned left.
Ray was sweating profusely, and his gloves were becoming heavy. He stepped backwards, gaining some distance from his advancing opponent, making sure to stay away from the edge of the ring. The foe made a slight move, barely noticeable to the untrained eye, but as someone who had fought this very nearly a hundred times by now, Raymond not only saw it, but knew what it meant.
The punches came toward him with great speed, first the right, then the left. He deflected both with his forearms and created an opening. Gritting his teeth against his mouth guard, he leapt in on his surprised foe, delivering a straight jab to the challenger's temple, followed by a powerful right hook to the jaw than knocked off the padded helmet. Long brown hair that was trapped underneath it now flowed freely. Raymond retreated again, smirking at the effect his punches had; the girl was kneeling, one hand on the ground, the other reaching to pick up the padded helmet.
“And another point for me! I told you I’d win this one.”
“I’m still in the lead, ” came the panted reply,
Raymond could tell that she was almost to her limit, a nice reversal of how their boxing matches normally played out.
“Not for long, if you keep fighting like that.”
“Okay then, let’s see how you handle this!”
Replacing her helmet, she rushed forward, delivering a fierce left to Raymond’s side. He barely managed to sidestep the uppercut that followed. He backed away swiftly to get out of range, jabbing at her face as she moved in to close the distance. She bobbed under, and was met with a cross-punch that floored her.
“Mindgames, son, ” he remarked.
He waited for her to get back up again, and then they began circling, throwing out jabs at random in the hope to create an opening. After about a minute, Raymond made an error. Tyra feinted a cross-punch to his face, and he brought both arms up in a block. She advanced and delivered a devastating blow to his unguarded stomach. Now too close for his punches to be effective, she rallied to deliver a flurry of body shots that Raymond was unable to block. He was only able to break out by performing an odd reverse clinch, grabbing her wrists in his elbows.
“Is this even a legal maneuver?” Raymond asked.
“Not sure. Not like we’re playing an official match anyway.”
They broke apart and began dancing about the ring, sizing each other up. Both were panting heavily and moving more sluggishly by the second; neither one appeared able to withstand more than a few blows.
“You're not looking too good, ” Raymond grinned. “You can forfeit if you want. I won't say anything.”
“Ha! You should know me better than that. If you're going to win against me, you're going to earn it.”
“Hey, I'm on a streak. And I've almost caught up.”
“Almost? I'm five games ahead, and I only need two to win the set.”
“I trust my streak.”
“How much?” she inquired, giving her helmet a rap on the top to adjust it.
“You know exactly how much.”
Tara moved to the northwest corner of the ring, and Raymond to the southeast. Then, they ran toward each other, preparing one final punch. It was far from a professional maneuver, but it was an old friendly habit that died hard. They met in the center of the ring.
Twenty minutes later, they exited the gym, showered and in clothes suitable for the chilly autumn evening. Raymond, his previous exhaustion apparently overcome, danced his way about Tara as she walked, throwing mock punches.
“Looks like Tara Rock, the up-and-coming semi-pro boxer has finally met her match. You may have a heart of stone, but I'm Ray Mason. Cut you up and lay you out! What's the record now? 23-19, with a five-match streak! I'm comin' for that record; don't deny it.”
“Luck, ” she remarked, punctuated with a small shove, “all dumb luck, because you just hit puberty.”
“Lies! My voice first cracked exactly a week before my 13th birthday. I'd just been lacking in the growth department until recently.”
“Until recently?” she poked his bicep. “You're still as scrawny now as you were then.”
“I am not scrawny, ” Raymond retorted, crossing his arms. “My musculature is just denser than most people's.”
“Maybe it’s time for you to admit that I’m just better than you.”
Tyra laughed at that.
“And how many tournaments were you a finalist in? None.”
“Doesn’t change the fact that I beat you, ” Raymond retorted with a grin.
“I just went easy on you because it’s your birthday.”
“Oh, so you purposely left yourself wide open on several occasions.”
“Or maybe you just have the uncanny ability to get reads on someone who you’ve been fighting since you were ten.”
“Point. You’re body’s like an open book to me now.”
He blushed when he realized what he just said. “Wait, that− that came out wrong. Well, not really, your body language really gives a lot away, and I can ‘read’ you in a figurative sense, but there’s a bit of a connotation to that phrase, which−”
“Yeah, I get it.”
After a few moments of deliberation, Raymond decided that he couldn’t let the matter rest at that.
“Actually, ” he continued, “Now that we’ve sort of brought it up...”
“Oh, no, ” Tyra blanched.
“Yeah, we sort of need to talk about that thing.”
“Can we not, and say we did?”
Raymond glared. Tyra huffed.
“Alright, so we kissed.”
“You kissed me.” Raymond corrected.
“Ray, it was just a kiss.”
“You know I can’t see it that way.”
“Well, that’s not really my problem, is it?”
“Yeah, it sort of is.”
“And the fact that you’ve put off talking with me about it for so long-”
“Ray, I’d just become a finalist in the regionals! You were there, and I was exhausted, and excited, and... you were there.”
Tyra noted Raymond’s contemplative silence, and knew that he didn’t buy it.
“I was there, ” He repeated slowly.
“Well, yeah, my mom hasn’t come a match since-”
“So, theoretically, ” he interrupted, affecting a condescending tone, “there could have been a random stranger standing where I was, and you still would have jumped into his arms- however “scrawny” they may or may not have been- and planted one on him?”
“And if Blake was there, you definitely wouldn’t have-”
Tyra’s face scrunched into a murderous glare, and that was all the warning he needed. He dodged Tyra’s swing, mere inches away from having his nose broken. Uncaring if the blow even hit, she stomped away. Raymond knew he had gone too far. He raced after her, putting an arm on her shoulder when he caught up. She wrenched out of his grasp and kept walking.
“I shouldn’t have said that.”
She didn’t as much as turn her head in his direction.
“Look I- I’m sorry.”
“You know I don’t like to talk about him, ” she responded coldly.
She picked up the pace, leaving Raymond struggling to catch up.
She stopped, but still didn’t look at him. He moved around to face her.
“Look, I- The thing is-”
Tyra’s raised eyebrow made him lose his nerve.
“I don’t even know what to say.”
“Then let me say something. You’ve been my best friend for practically my entire life, and you’re like a brother to me, but that doesn’t give you the right to disrespect my wishes. I have nothing against you being attracted to me; it’s actually pretty flattering. I’m just not looking for a relationship with you- or with anyone, for that matter- and I don’t want what we have to change.”
She hesitated, breaking eye contact, before continuing. “The kiss... it was out of excitement; I wasn’t thinking, and it didn’t mean anything. If you felt like I was leading you on or something, I really am sorry.”
She didn’t look back at him. Turning, she headed a few yards down the block to her apartment complex. As she was about to open her door, Tyra felt Raymond grasp her wrist.
“You’re right, ” he said. “I acted like a jerk. I’m sorry.”
She barely had time to smile before he continued.
“I didn’t give you your birthday present yet.”
“You actually bought something for me?”
Reaching into his pocket and pulled out a thick bit of string, threaded through a shimmering, clear orange stone. It was quickly pressed into her open palm.
“My dad gave this to my mom, almost twenty years ago. It came with a promise that he’d stay by her side, always be there for her.”
He let go of her arm, focusing on her, his deep brown eyes full of resolve.
“I haven’t heard from my dad since I was six. And you know the story behind my mom. You’re all I’ve got in the world. The only person left who gives a damn about me. And I’m going to keep the promise that my father broke. Because I love you, Tyra, and I’ll always be there for you. Nothing in the world will make me a liar.”
Tyra stared at the stone in her hand. Raymond waited for her to say something, anything. Turn him down, thank him, even call him an idiot. After what seemed like hours, Tyra seemed to gain enough presence of mind.
“Ray, I can’t... I can’t take this.”
“I can’t take it back. Do what you want with it.”
He stepped down to the sidewalk.
“That kiss may not have any meaning for you, but it meant the world to me. Happy sixteenth.”
He left her on the stoop, clutching a stone and a bit of string, and with it, his heart.
edited 21st Mar '11 11:56:20 AM by SalFishFin
Well, after months, it has been updated.
Her pursuers were slowing. But then again, so was she
. Her strength and endurance were average at best.
But I wasn’t chosen for my
physical ability, was I?
She craned her head this way and that, looking for the best place to hide, but one presented itself directly in front of her. The street ran under an eight-lane highway; the dark tunnel of the underpass was perfect for a getaway..
This mission... requires stealth.
As soon as she entered the darkness, she crossed the street as silently as possible, until she met the opposite wall. She only took a few moments to rest; the long tunnel was pitch black at the middle, but a single car could pass through and ruin her hiding spot in an instant.
She heard the two men enter. Holding her crystal in her palm so that its glow wouldn’t give her away, she reached out with her senses.
The man closest to her was not very tall, but bulky and powerful; she sensed that he held the power of Earth. The second was taller and slimmer, with the power of Darkness. Her position was quickly becoming a disadvantage. Dark and Earth had far more offensive capability than her power of the Mind. In a straight fight, she wouldn’t come out alive.
As slowly and quietly as she could, she tiptoed out, sticking to the shadows as much as possible. She was nearly out of the tunnel, when something a large, heavy, furry something
landed on her arm.
To her credit, she did not scream, though she might as well have. In her surprise, she released her crystal, and the tunnel was illuminated for a brief moment. Her cover blown, she hurried out, beginning the chase anew.
A brick wall, maybe twenty feet tall, ran up the left side of the street, topped by a tall black fence. Beyond the fence, she could make out the tops of several marble statues. A graveyard.
Her crystal shone brightly once more, enveloping her in the golden light. She began to levitate, traveling over the wall and the fence and landing on the soft grass. She didn’t go far before a black portal appeared in front of her, both men stepping out to confront her. They, too wore glowing crystals; the short man had a green stone set in a ring, while the other wore two deep purple ones pierced in his lower lip near his chin.
"Hand over the package, girl, and you won’t get hurt, " one of the threatened.
In response, she thrust her hands forward, emitting a dazzling golden light.
The two men were blinded momentarily by the flash, but the taller one had the presence of mind to grab the girl as she tried to get past them. She slipped from his grip, but fell to the ground on her backside only a few feet away in the process. As they approached, she stuck her hand out again, and a headstone raced toward them. In response, the man with the green ring made a shoving motion, and the stone shattered. As she scurried off, but before she could get to her feet, a shadowy hand grabbed her by the ankle. More of the dark appendages appeared and held her to the floor. The tall man approached her.
"You could have made this so
much easier on yourself."
One more hand came out of the shadows, at his command, ending in wickedly sharp claws.
"Give us the stone, and you don’t get hurt."
"Never, " she spat defiantly.
"Well, don’t say we didn’t warn you."
The claws came down rapidly; she screamed as they sunk into her abdomen. The man commanded the claws to twist, causing her further agony. She writhed futilely against her bonds for a few more moments, then became still.
"Poor, stupid kid, " The green-ringed man muttered.
"Shut up and search the body."
He reached down to search the body for the item he had come for, but his hands passed straight through it. The body faded out of existence, replaced with a small statue of an angel. He nearly slapped himself for being such a fool, and called over to his partner..
"It was an illusion. The girl got away!"
Behind a large headstone, the girl listened as the two men ran past. After staying silent for several more minutes to ensure that she would not be found, she silently slipped away, opening her mind’s eye so that it could lead her to her target.
"Oh, darn it!" she yelled, before she could stop herself.
In the time she had spent running, her target had moved. He was currently less than five feet away.
Tyra was tired on far too many levels. After fumbling with the key to her apartment door, she pushed the door a crack, and was greeted by melody of Happy Birthday
. Played on a kazoo.
She held a palm to her forehead for patience and took a deep breath. Preparing for the worst, she pushed the door fully open.
"Happy Birthday!" her family greeted her.
Her parents and elderly grandfather (all wearing ridiculous party hats) were holding up a monstrosity of an ice cream sundae: Four big scoops of Rum and Raisin Ice cream, half of which was covered in shredded almonds, the other half in chocolate syrup. Tyra pushed past them moodily.
Her mother, a short-haired Korean woman in her late thirties, looked out the door and down the main hall.
"Where’s Ray? Isn’t he coming up?"
"Had an argument, " she replied curtly. "Don’t want to talk about it."
As she headed down the passage to her room, she heard her grandfather mumble something in Korean. Her father’s response - in plain English- and the resulting bilingual argument made her smile despite her bad mood.
After flopping down onto her bed with a groan failing to get some sleep, Tyra reached over to her nightstand for the picture frame that was always there.
The photograph itself was taken over a decade ago, when Tyra was just learning to walk. She was forever frozen in mid-step, her entire fist wrapped around two fingers of an older boy, who shared her dark brown hair and hazel eyes. He, however, more resembled their mother and grandfather, with his slitted eyes and sand-colored skin.
A tear made its way down Tyra’s face as she she sat up slowly, looking into the face that could no longer smile at her. Her melancholy quickly became to rage, and she threw the picture frame across the room; it shattered against the wall. After a few moments with her head in her hands, she got out of bed to clean up.
The frame was her eleventh birthday present; Raymond had rigged it out of a few LEGO blocks and a piece of thick, clear plastic for the express purpose of chucking across a room when she was in a bad mood. As she put it back together, she couldn’t help but smile at the memory, the dark humor she heard in his voice as he presented it to her: I have one with a picture of my dad in it. Must have saved me a couple hundred bucks by now.
By the time she had rebuilt the base of the frame, her father- who had heard the ruckus- had entered to assist her. He smiled in a reassuring manner.
"What were you and Gramps arguing about?" Tyra asked him. "I only heard your half of the conversation."
"Oh, same old, same old. ‘I can’t believe my daughter chose you, you’re not good enough for her.’ If I bug Ray that much, you have every right to put me in a home."
"Dad, " Tyra groaned.
"What, do you want it in writing?"
"I am not
amused, " Tyra glared.
"Okay, fine. Now what was your
Tyra was not in the mood to discuss her love life, or the fact that she’d rather not have
"He won again, " she sighed. "I know it’s a stupid thing, but he’s just... He shouldn’t be better than me. It’s like he knows all of my tricks, but keeps pulling new stuff on me."
"That kid could probably give MacGyver
a run for his money."
"Just something I used to watch when I was about your age. Basically, there was this spy who want around making stuff out of spare parts... I'm boring you, aren't I? Point is, you shouldn’t be too mad. Maybe he just has a good teacher." He smiled, reminiscing. "That’s Emily and Roy’s kid for you. Got his mother’s brain and his father’s creativity."
"He probably had his reasons for leaving."
Tyra looked up to meet his eyes. She was not happy.
? What, you’re defending
"We were friends. Roy’s brain got your old man out of a few situations back in the day. Besides, I didn’t say they were good
She stood up, dropping the half-constructed frame and scattering the blocks once again.
"Do you have any idea of what your so-called friend did to his own son
? Or his wife, who’s so messed up she doesn’t even remember she has a son
anymore? Ray’s so scared of losing anyone else that he even gave me this stupid necklace
-" she pulled the offending item out of her pocket and tossed it on the floor among the discarded blocks "- and said that he loved me. That he’ll always be there for me. And I... I love him, too, but... but now have to break his heart, because I can’t let anyone else die for me
The tears came back now, hard and unstoppable. She tried to wipe her eyes with her sleeve. Her father immediately threw his arms around her, cradling her to his chest like he did all those years ago. He had no words for moments like this. Few parents did. What do you say to the girl who’s lost her older brother, who so feared losing anyone else?
Wait a minute... a necklace?
Tyra’s father turned and saw the orange crystal among the tiny bricks, picked it up, and examined it.
"Ty, where’d he get this necklace?"
"He said... he said it was his mom’s. Why?"
Her father didn’t seem to be listening. He was fiddling with his phone. He pushed a button and turned on the speaker function. The voice Tyra heard was enough to shock her into silence.
Paul. Paul, It’s Roy. You need to pick up, it’s important. Oh, yeah, cell phone. Never mind what I just said. Look, here’s the thing, I don’t have much time. I’ve sent someone to Ray, but... just in case she doesn’t get there in time. If Tyra comes home today with Emily’s necklace, tell her everything, as much as you can, because there's probably a time limit. Tyra, if you’re listening, I’ve looked through all the futures I could- don’t worry about that part, your dad will explain... hopefully- and there’s a huge chance that you and Ray don't live to see tomorrow. You need to get to Ray as soon as possible. In the futures that both of you survive tonight, you were together. Oh, and tell Ray I said happy sixteenth to both of you. Wait, he probably hates me at this point, so... scratch that last thought. Happy Sixteenth, Tyra.