“What are you girls doing to our poor Clayton?” Francesca asked. Clay was lying on the couch, a stricken look on his face. Julia was holding tightly onto his hand, while Umbry hovered over them.
Looking over at Francesca, Umbry immediately noticed the book. “What’s that?” she asked. “Are you keeping a diary?”
“No my dear,” Francesca replied. “It is indeed a diary, but it is not mine. It belonged to my late partner Frederick.”
That got Julia’s attention. “I didn’t know it was ok to read other peoples’ diaries.”
“Desperate times, my dear,” Francesca said. “This is a most extraordinary document. It would appear that Freddie was keeping secrets.”
Julia and Umbry looked at each other. “Yes, we know.”
Francesca looked quizzically from one to the other. “If understand correctly what I have read, it should not be possible for you to know. Are you saying that you have recovered your memories?”
Clay, who had been silently trying to regain his capacity for speech since Julia had uttered that name, finally managed to speak up. “What are the lot of you talking about? What memories? Is this a game anyone can play?”
“Clayton, we have little time,” Francesca explained. “Our deluded friend Noir believes that he needs to overpower us through force, when in fact we need to help him before time runs out. We need the full use of your mind to turn the tide, and this will require some effort and ingenuity.”
Clay looked dazed. “I really don’t know what’s going on, but obviously the three of you do. Whatever you need to do, let’s get it done.”
Francesca addressed herself to Julia and Umbry. “The loss of memory was unintentional, a side-effect of a process that was only partially completed. All that is required to undo the memory block is for the victim to be pushed to relive the blocked memories, while experiencing an intense personal connection with someone in the here and now.” She regarded the two young women with admiration. “It seems that somehow or other you were able to effect this process on your own, without the benefit of instruction. I must say I am impressed.”
Julia and Umbry looked at each other. Umbry was the first to speak. “We had the advantage of an unusually close personal connection. That was already there. I think we just stumbled onto the rest of it.” She smiled at her partner.
Julia chimed in. “Well, that worked fine for us, but what about Clay? He doesn’t have the benefit of the kind of closeness that Umbry and I have built through the years.”
“There are substitutes,” Umbry smiled mischievously.
Julia looked at her with an unreadable expression. “Oh, don’t tell me you mean what I think you mean.”
Umbry shrugged. “Why not? There’s closeness and there’s, you know, closeness. Is this going to be a problem for you, partner?”
Julia blushed. “I didn’t mean, uh, I mean, … really, it’s ok. One for the team, right?”
“Exactly!” Umbry beamed. “One for all and all for one. I’m doing this for all of us. Glad you’re ok with it.”
Clay had been sitting quietly on the couch, trying to follow the conversation, but it was all beyond him. “Could somebody please tell me what’s going on?” he asked timidly.
“I’ll explain,” said Umbry, as she climbed onto the couch, straddling him in a way that was distinctly more intimate than he would have expected. She snuggled her body close against his, and was gratified to detect that her friendly gesture was clearly having the intended effect.
Clay had a slightly dazed look on his face. “You see Clay, I feel very close to you. And I’m pretty sure, on the evidence of the other night, that you feel the same.” As she was talking, her body was saying the same thing in different ways. “You need to trust me here, go with this.”
Clay’s face was red. He felt both elated and completely out of his depth. “Yes Umbry,” was all he could think to say.
Francesca was amused to note that Julia was watching all of this with a stoic look of resignation. On an impulse, Francesca reached out and held Julia’s hand. Julia turned her and smiled. “Thank you,” she mouthed silently.
Meanwhile, Umbry was leaning her face close to Clay’s talking softly to him. Her dark hair was brushing against his cheek. She looked deeply into Clay’s eyes. “No matter how much it hurts, right now I want you to think of Bianca Renford.” Even as his face began to register pain, she placed her lips upon his, and began to kiss him. It was a long, slow kiss. She took her time about it and made sure to make every moment count. After a few moments, Julia and Francesca could see the pain and tension go out of Clay’s body. He began to kiss Umbry back, passionately. Silently Francesca squeezed Julia’s hand, and Julia squeezed back.
After several long delightful minutes they finally came up for air. Umbry and Clay were simply gazing at each other, sharing the same look of astonished delight. Francesca cleared her throat, in what she thought was a suitably diplomatic way. Neither of them seemed to notice. Finally she tapped them both on the shoulder.
When she at last had their attention, she asked Clay. “Who is Bianca Renford?”
“My wife,” he replied. “That is, she was my wife, before the bomb on the bus.”
“Excellent,” said Francesca. “Umbry, you’ve done it!”
But Umbry wasn’t listening. Neither was Clay for that matter. They would get back to the case in a few minutes. For now, they were preoccupied. Francesca looked with fond amusement at the two lovebirds, kissing each other as though kissing was something they had just discovered for the first time.
Julia was looking at them with a somewhat more impatient expression. “Excuse me, but isn’t it time we got back to the case?” This did not produce the desired response. In fact, for the next few minutes they gave no indication that they had heard a thing.
Francesca and Julia sat themselves down at the table, the blue diary the only thing in front of them. Julia stood up again and returned moments later with two hot drinks in her hand. Francesca smiled at the smell of espresso, and opened her mouth to compliment. “It’s okay,” Julia intervened. “You don’t need to make a compliment. I already know my espressos are wonderful.”
Francesca smiled curtly. “Actually, dear, I had planned on informing of you of how glad I am to see you back. But your espressos are indeed excellent.”
Julia blushed. “Why, thank you, Francesca.” Her face turned serious again as she returned to the diary and they opened it to the first page. Julia cleared her head and read through the pages, and found that her reading pace was about the same as Francesca. Finally, they closed the book, and Julia sighed.
“I wish I could have helped him.”
“Me too, darling. But none of us could have known of how closed he was.” Francesca placed a comforting hand on Julia’s. “All we can do for him now is help understand what he left for us.”
“In that case…” Julia said, and once again turned to the diary. “This entry here was after Bianca died, but he’s talking about how he needs her.”
“Oh? It could simply be him missing her.” Francesca read over the entry.
After all of these recent events, I find myself still in need of my beloved daughter. She has passed, but her presence must still linger here, so all of us can gain at least some peace of mind…
“No,” Julia said, shaking her head. “He’s not regretting anything – he’s speaking in the present. Don’t you agree?”
After reading it over a couple times, Francesca found herself nodding. “You’re right – he is talking about her in an active sense.”
“Who would need her? Clay, perhaps?” Francesca looked back at the quote. “No, I believe that peace of mind is the important phrase here. There’s someone who needs peace of mind, which would come from Bianca…”
“Noir!” Julia said suddenly.
“Yes, that’s it! Noir!”
They smiled at each other, their eyes holding each other’s gaze for just a moment longer, before returning to the diary. Julia bit her lip. “That’s not all of it, though. Noir needs her for peace of mind, sure, but that’s irrelevant if she’s dead.”
“Perhaps it isn’t, Julia.” Francesca pointed to the quote. “Her presence must still linger here, he says. Perhaps this means she is still alive.”
“No, that couldn’t be. It couldn’t be.” Julia shook her head. “The brain damage was too severe. The doctors said they had no chance. Frederick said–”
“Frederick, as it happens, was not always truthful, and was often withholding,” Francesca retorted. “You must think, Julia.”
Julia sighed and cleared her mind. “…You’re right. It’s the only thing that makes sense. Noir needs her. Frederick knew that, and he wanted his grandson to be alright… maybe… Noir needs her for his mind to be normal again.”
Francesca nodded. “Good job, darling. We know his secret now. With this, I’m sure we can win.”
Julia nodded. “I still feel sorry for him. He must be so confused. All he wants is his mother.” She looked down at her feet.
“There is nothing I can say to comfort you, is there, dear Julia?” Francesca asked, staring at her. Julia shook her head silently.
“Perhaps, then,” she said, smiling slyly, “there is something I can do.” Softly, she lifted Julia’s chin up with her fingers and kissed her. Julia felt a little bit like an etch-a-sketch being shaken – every worry that had once occupied her mind was whisked away. It might have only lasted a couple of seconds, but it felt like an eternity until Francesca pulled away, leaving Julia gasping a little. She blinked, and then caught Umbry’s eye. Her partner was staring at her with her mouth wide open, an expression of pure shock on her face. Julia, red as a tomato, looked away. “You know that Umbry’s right there, right?” She hissed.
“Consider it revenge, Julia. And hopefully you gained something else from it as well.” Francesca looked quite mischievous at that moment, and Julia couldn’t help but smile a little.
“Perhaps,” she said, returning the sly smirk with one of her own.
“Frederick, you see, had a secret, one he took to his grave,” Francesca was explaining. “He had developed a set of rather radical — if dangerous — techniques to revive a coma victim. It involved the use of several minds. The minds needed to be young and flexible, which — apparently — was why he never involved me in the scheme. It seems I was too old.”
Julia smiled. “You’ll never be too old for anything.”
Francesca blushed, and continued. “When the unconscious body of Bianca disappeared, he found himself in the middle of the process, with no way to continue — no way to give young Noir a complete and fully functional mind. Yes the boy woke up with a brilliant mind, but alas it was still an insane one. Freddie could not explain the problem to any of his three volunteers — Julia, Umbry and Bianca’s husband, our dear Clayton — they would promptly have forgotten the entire conversation in a matter of minutes.
“For years he was wracked with guilt – feeling he had betrayed his closest friends with his failure, and had let a young madman loose on the world. Until recently, when he discovered that he had cancer. He told nobody, the old fool, not even me. Knowing he had, at most, mere months to live, he devised this scheme to fake his own murder, knowing it was the only way to bring together the minds of Julia and Umbry and Clay. It was mere circumstance that I became involved. But as it happened, it was a fortuitous circumstance.”
“Yes,” Clay nodded slowly. “All the pieces fit together now. The problem, if I understand correctly, is that time is now running out. Clearly this insanity is beginning to take control of Noir’s mind. We need to get to him before he becomes permanently insane.”
Julia sat apart from the others, still deep in thought. Her thoughts had almost completely returned to her since the kiss with Francesca (thinking about it made her lose her train of thought again, but she shook herself out of it) and she kept returning to the segment of the diary. Noir needed Bianca, and she still lingered here… Noir must have realized that, right? He really cared about Bianca. He wouldn’t have just let her disappear like that. No, that wasn’t something he would do at all… and he always got very wistful when he talked about Bianca – almost impatient, like he needed to – to get back to someone.
“Bianca’s with him!” She said, leaping up. Everyone looked at her.
“She’s still alive, and she’s with him,” she explained. “He wants to find a way to bring her back.”
“How do you know this, Julia?” Umbry asked sternly.
She paused. How would Umbry react to this? It didn’t matter, she finally realized. Umbry would have to be fine with anything if she expected Julia to be fine with the whole fiasco with Clay. Yeah, that was still pissing her off. Even though she’d done something awfully similar with Francesca, she just didn’t think it was fair that she had to –
She quickly shut out the thought before it had time to finish, and looked up at her partner. “I took a walk with Noir, the night we stayed at his place. He tried to get me to remember, but I blacked out. I think I might have gone a bit too far back, but he kept looking impatient, like he wanted to get back to her. She’s still alive with him. No – he’s keeping her alive. And I think that in his mind, we’re the ones who can help him.”
There was a long silence.
“So what do we do now?” Clay asked.
“We have to go to him,” Umbry answered. “It’s the only thing we can do. Especially if you want to save your son.”
“And how shall we go about that, Umbry dear?” Francesca asked. “If I recall your account, you were both asleep for most of the ride to the island.”
“Most of the ride,” Umbry clarified. “But I’m more observant than I look. And Noir’s mansion is located near a very blue lake. In other words,” she said, laying out a map in front of them, “A dead lake.”
“Ah! From chemical experiments. I see.” Francesca scanned the map. “Those lakes would be characterized by an intensely blue color.”
“And the only dead lake near here,” Clay said, pointing to a spot on the map a few hours outside of the city, “is this one.”
They drove for a long time, occasionally having to stop and ask for directions and being met with people very confused as to why anyone would want to go to such a desolate place. None of them had a car, but as it happened Lindsay did. It was old and smelled like something awful was living inside – Julia explained to Francesca that this was probably the smell of Lindsay, and they would just have to deal with it. As they drew closer, Julia and Umbry found the area familiar, and Umbry was able to pinpoint the turn they should make to get to the bridge. The bridge was guarded by men with large guns, but seeing Julia in the car the men let them through. One of them smiled curtly at her, and she recalled that she had been polite to him in the past. She returned the smile and they ascended the hill. Everything was completely familiar now – the smell of the wilderness and the distant lapping of the waves. They pressed their faces against the windows like eager children.
Finally the wilderness disappeared and instead they saw pavement and grass, and the mansion out in front of them. The car sputtered to a halt and they stepped out. Clay stared in awe and Francesca looked on, somewhat impressed, while Julia and Umbry reveled in the opportunity to breathe fresh air again.
There were guards waiting outside the doors for them, and Francesca approached them fearlessly. “We are here to see Monsieur LeFevre,” she informed the one who seemed to be in charge.
“Yes. He is waiting for you,” he replied, beckoning for them to follow him inside. “Please, this way.”
He led them through the foyer and back into another large room in the house. The walls were lined with books of all kinds, and in one corner there was a place where perhaps Noir enjoyed reading. After that they passed through the dining hall and the parlor, and when they were just nearing the back of the huge mansion the guard turned and gestured them toward a small staircase nestled in the corner of the room. “He is down those stairs. Good luck.” With a last nod he left, although Umbry noted that he was still standing at the door of the room, watching them carefully.
They all took a deep breath. This was it. Francesca went first, followed by Umbry, then Julia and finally Clay, all of them descending into the darkness of the basement.
The staircase started off normally but soon became a spiral. After some walking they were in a large dome-shaped room without any windows. The lighting was ambient and almost eerie, like a hospital for vampires, Clay noted. There was an odd humming noise and a slow, steady beeping that Francesca recognized as a heart monitor. As they descended further and came close to the ground, Julia saw Noir, sitting alone in a comfortable-looking chair, staring at something off to the left that Julia couldn’t quite see. It was, in fact, Umbry who first saw it – her. Her hair was long and white and flowed in waves, parts of it flowing off of the bed and down towards the ground. She was hooked up to all sorts of strange devices. Noir didn’t blink when he looked at her. In his hands was a piece of paper, on which he was drawing – it was a card of some sort, she realized.
“It’s her birthday,” he said softly, not turning towards them. They all reached the bottom of the stairs.
“I know, Noir. I remember,” Clay replied. “She always loved your birthday cards.”
“How would you know?”
“Noir, I…” he didn’t know how to say this, but he knew he had to speak his mind. “I knew Bianca. I knew her very well. She liked angel food cake and loved the month of May, and when she gave birth to you she was so happy that we finally had a child.”
“…Basically, you’re telling me that you’re my father,” Noir said, still quiet, almost whispering.
Noir laughed to himself. “And that’s supposed to be surprising? It’s so obvious.” Finally he turned around in his chair, sporting a twisted smile. His black eyes were wide and sparkling with something almost otherworldly in its anger. “But you won’t get her back from me, dad. Mommy is mine, and so are they.”
The door locked upstairs. Julia and Umbry looked up at it. They turned back to react toward Noir, but were met with a harsh, resolute clicking noise. Noir was holding a gun, and pointing it at them. “You two, after all, are the key that my grandpa left.”
“Us?” Julia asked.
“He led you to me to you so that I could bring Bianca back, with this machine.”
“No, Noir,” Francesca said, shaking her head. “Frederick – your grandfather – wanted to bring you back, dear. Back to the way you were before, when your mind was fully capable.”
“You’re wrong!” He snapped. “See! I’ll show you! I’ll bring her back with this!” He pointed the gun at Umbry and Julia. “You two are just the sacrifices.”
“Noir, calm down,” Clay said, trying to sound soothing. “You have to think about this. You were unconscious, for a long time. Bianca died in that time. Grandpa was keeping her alive so that you could be brought back to normal, but you took her away when you woke up…”
The room fell silent except for the strange hum and the heart monitor. Noir had backed against the wall, and now he was waving the gun shakily at the four of them.
“Noir, where’s the machine?” Umbry asked, looking around for it. “We can talk about this.”
“We can save you, Noir,” Julia added. “If you just tell us where the machine is, we can save you.”
He looked at them for a second, slightly hesitant, as if he desperately wanted to believe what they were saying. There was a battle inside of him that lasted for almost five seconds, and in those seconds he didn’t move.
“I… can’t be saved,” he spat. He reached for a lever hidden behind Bianca’s bed. Francesca could just barely see it from her place, and knew instantly what he was doing.
“The room is the machine! Noir, stop it!” She lunged at him.
He whipped around.
There was a shot. Umbry and Julia ducked. Clay shouted.
There was blood, and Noir stared in shock at what he had done. He dropped the gun.
Francesca fell to the floor, holding her side. “Francesca!” Umbry shouted.
Noir started to shake, watching as Umbry and Clay leaned over Francesca, who was bleeding profusely from the bullet wound. He couldn’t be saved. See? The only thing he could do was get his mother back… and then…
He felt pain in his head as he was pushed against the wall. He tried to breathe but instead was met with nothing. He opened his eyes and gasped. Julia’s arm held him up against the wall. “You little piece of shit,” she growled. “Didn’t I tell you what happens when you hurt people I care about?” He flailed against her, but in her anger she was stronger than he was.
Clay saw this. “Julia! No!” But she didn’t stop at that. He got up and ran to the lever. Noir was still flailing in Julia’s grip. “Julia, you’ll kill him!” Umbry shouted, but she was trying to stop Francesca from bleeding, and Julia still didn’t answer.
Clay decided. He had to do it now. If only he could trust himself with remembering how… he pressed a couple of buttons on the machine and one of the lights started glowing blue. He grabbed the lever. It could be pushed up or down now. Undoubtedly, one would bring Noir back to his senses and the other would attempt bring Bianca back — an incredible long-shot. He closed his eyes. He had to know which one to do, and it was a 50/50 chance. He took a deep breath. Heaven or Earth? Which way would he go to save the person he cared about?
He went to heaven, pushing the lever upwards.
The humming of the machine got very loud, and Julia and Umbry immediately felt dizzy. Noir gasped for air. Umbry knew they would all faint soon as the light of the entire room went to a faded blue, almost entirely dark. She got to her feet and stumbled to Julia, who was determined to kill him. “Julia, you have to stop,” she said. “Julia, please, stop… you have to. Remember us! Remember – remember the eclipse! Please, Julia!”
Julia hesitated for a second, as Noir’s flailing became weaker and weaker. Then she loosened her grip on him and he slumped to the floor. Julia stumbled back into Umbry’s arms and they both fell backwards.
“An eclipse…” Julia whispered. “So it’s true, then.” She fainted, and Umbry went out right after her.
The machine’s humming became too loud to handle, and Clay held on to Bianca’s body as everything went black.
It was very quiet when Julia and Umbry came to. The first thing they saw was Noir, still slumped on the floor, still breathing. Umbry turned around to see Francesca’s blood on the ground, with her still lying in it, but her wound had seemingly stopped bleeding, and she was still breathing. Julia looked up, and saw Clay, hovering over Bianca.
Their hearing returned, and the first thing they heard was a long, steady beep. The heart monitor showed no signs of life. The respirator had been unplugged. Clay was staring at the body, unblinking, just like his son had once done for hours at a time. Of course, it made sense – her face was almost like an angel’s..
They helped each other up and the blood rushed to their heads. “Did… did it work?” Umbry asked.
“We’ll have to see. Francesca is okay, but I still have a headache.” He looked up at them and cracked a smile. “And for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of that idiot college student.”
“Huh. Neither can I,” Julia agreed. “Larry? Lenny? Landon?” She laughed. “Guess he doesn’t matter much.”
“You three seem quite alright to me,” Francesca chimed in from the floor. She had regained consciousness and was looking at all three of them. Julia ran to her side, followed by Umbry.
“You know,” Julia said, “for the victim of a bullet wound, you seem pretty blase about it.”
“I have lived through such things before, Julia dear,” she said, touching her stomach. “Although I will need to go to the hospital soon, or I may suffer greatly from my injuries.”
Umbry nodded and went to the stairs. “I’ll get help,” she said. The guards had been nice to them before, and they would be again. Before she ascended them, however, she touched Clay’s cheek and smiled at him. He nodded at her and she ran up the stairs, knocking on the door politely.
Clay turned to Noir. He checked the boy’s heartbeat and sat him up, but left him alone for Julia and Francesca. “You’re still nervous about talking to him?” Julia asked, and he nodded.
“I wish I could have helped him. It would have been better if I’d remembered, so I could have stopped him from running away.”
“It is all in the past now, dear. Now you have to make amends with him. So what will you do?”
Clay sighed, shaking his head, obviously out of ideas.
Noir let out a sigh as he shook himself to life, lifting his eyelids to see four people staring right back at him. His hands shook a little bit, and he took a breath to speak.
“Hello, this is the SunMoon detective agency. We solve your cases, day or night, earth or heaven. How may I help you?” Lindsay held the phone on his shoulder, staring at pictures of cats. The person on the other line seemed very serious about their case, so he pretended to type on the computer to please them. “Uh-huh. Yeah. Well, they’re a bit busy with cases right now, but we can get back to you by tomorrow. Yes, they’re that fast. Oh, I’m sorry. Can you hold?” He clicked the button to go to the other line, simultaneously changing the cute cat picture on his computer. “Hello, this is the SunMoon–oh, Noir.” He looked away from the computer. “You won’t hurt me, will you? …Okay. I’ll get him.” He put the phone down and sighed. “Gladly,” he added, still mystified as to why Julia and Umbry had been so keen on accepting a former mob member and murderer as their sponsor. Still, they accepted him, so it was alright. “Clay!” he called. “It’s Noir.”
“Oh, Noir? Really?” Clay looked a bit bashful. Even after a month of conversation it was a bit hard to talk to him. “Ah… I’ll talk to him in a second, I’m still trying to work out this puzzle…”
“He says Francesca sent him the puzzle, and that the answer is Andrew Sixson.” Lindsay couldn’t help but smirk when Clay gave a startled look and then the puzzle pieces fit together inside his head.
“Ah! I get it now!” He said, standing up, but then looked back at Lindsay in confusion. “But isn’t Francesca still in the hospital? How could she have–”
“Hello, Clayton darling.” The bells of the door rang and Francesca entered, still a little weak but seemingly fine. Her hair was longer than before, but still beautifully curly, and she looked like she was glowing.
“Francesca!” He couldn’t help but hug her, which made her wince. Still, she appreciated it nonetheless.
“I thought Noir might be able to help with your case. I hope you don’t mind.” She smiled at him.
“No, it’s perfectly fine. Most of the time he’s smarter than me at these things, anyways.” He smiled back, a little sheepishly.
Lindsay stared at the two and finally picked up the phone. “Noir? Yeah, these two are having a bit of a heartfelt reunion… can I get Clay to call you back?”
Noir laughed on the other line. He was staring out the window from his living room, having just finished a book. “Sure, Lindsay. Just get them to mail me with the next puzzle and I’ll be sure to help.” He clicked the phone off and sighed. Perhaps he should start the next book while he waited.
Those detectives were quite strange sometimes, but he was finally a little bit happy. He smiled to himself and stared out at the blue lake far off in the distance, between the trees. Hopefully they would come to visit sometime soon.
“Does Julia know about you coming back?” Clay asked, looking up towards their apartment upstairs.
“Yes, she does. She did come visit me every day, and brought flowers. It was quite kind of her.”
“She was pretty worried about you,” Clay agreed.
“Hey, are those two still asleep?” Lindsay asked from the computer desk. “And do they really still sleep in the same bed?”
“Yes. They sleep quite late,” Francesca answered the first question.
“And yes, they sleep in the same bed,” Clay added. “…unfortunately.”
Upstairs, however, they had already woken up. Julia was brushing her teeth and Umbry was just getting out of bed and following her to the bathroom. Having finished, Julia’s teeth looked very white. She stared at herself in the mirror. She looked really mature now, and definitely happier.
She gasped as she felt arms around her, but calmed down when she realized it was Umbry. “Good morning,” Umbry mumbled, holding her.
“So Francesca’s back.”
“So I heard,” Julia said, smiling as Umbry let go of her.
“So you two,” Umbry started, not really knowing what to say. “You’re really… you’re actually involved?”
“Pretty much.” Julia paused. “And you and Clay? You two…?”
They both stood silently for a while, looking at each other’s reflections in the mirror.
At the same time, they both hugged each other.
“It’s okay! I won’t leave you!” “Don’t worry, because I’ll always be here for you!”
They pulled away from the hug a little bit, their arms still around each other, and looked at each other, and then they both laughed.
“We always think the same things, don’t we?” Julia sighed.
“It’s true. We do,” Umbry agreed.
They looked at each other for a while, both smiling.
When they met, it had been during an eclipse.
It was a start. They didn’t know when or where they would find the rest of those far away memories, but now they had a start.
And they had friends – people who would support them, no matter what they had to do.
And they had each other, for which they would never stop being thankful.
Neither of them had to say anything to communicate any of this – they both just took each other’s hand and left the bathroom, going towards the downstairs, to new mysteries and whatever else they might find.
They stopped at their bed, where a fluffy white cat slept. “You’re so sleepy these days, Bianca,” Umbry said, scratching its ears. Julia gave it a belly rub and it purred in contentment.
Then, nodding at each other, they walked down the stairs. Julia gave one last look at Umbry before they emerged to another day, and they both knew what they were going to say in their last moments of alone time. They smiled together.
“Let’s get cracking.”