Christiana opened her eyes to a familiar sight. She was laying in her bed, her hands out in front of her, interweaved with Connor’s. He had her cocooned, her back nestled into his chest and his arms tight and warm around hers. He was awake, his fingers were playing with hers, stroking her fingers and re-interlocking them again. She stayed perfectly still watching him do this. She loved this image more than anything else. His hands were so big compared to hers, as if to prove this he wrapped his hand around one of hers, completely encompassing it so that she couldn’t see her hand at all anymore. She loved the way her hands looked in his, completely at his mercy, completely under his protection. She sighed in momentary bliss. This was a man that would protect her no matter what. She took a moment to wonder why that thought had come into her head. Did she need protecting?
Suddenly a flash of a memory ran through her mind; fire, and Connor there, his massive hands holding onto hers and pulling her along. She remembered burning and suddenly felt the twang of burnt skin on her arms. Another flash of memory shot through her mind, a little girl crying. She shut her eyes tight and choked a sob. More memories poured in, more people crying, people on fire. She felt Connor’s arms tighten around her and his lips were at her ear, soothing her. Her memories soon faded away to images that were of her own imagination; her own mother, her father, her two brothers, everyone she knew and loved; all burning, all dying slowly whilst she lay there in bed.
That was enough for her, she was up. She pushed Connor away and was out of bed within a second. She turned back to see Connor, hair tousled and eyes red, fully clothed and staring at her cautiously.
“Christie?” He said. “You okay?”
“I need to…” Christiana started, her eyes darting around the expensive looking bedroom she was in. She couldn’t end the sentence though. She didn’t know what she needed to do. It was something. She needed to be moving, but she didn’t know what that movement entailed. What should she be doing right now? If she didn’t move, she’d be overwhelmed. She couldn’t do that. She had to be pro-active. She had to do something.
“What do you need?”
Christiana looked back at Connor, he looked scared, no, he looked terrified. His eyes were desperately searching for an answer in hers and she didn’t know what it was. He was scared, not for outside, he was scared for her.
“My family?” Christiana choked. “They’re all…?”
She couldn’t say the word but she didn’t need to. Connor nodded slowly, getting out of bed and making his way towards her. She stepped back and held her hand out, bringing him to a halt.
“I can’t,” she said. “I just need to…”
But there it was again, the sentence that she couldn’t finish. She decided to move, she went to the door and pulled it open. She was now in a living area of rich orange and brown, decorated with large circular chairs and artefacts that Christiana found vaguely familiar. She didn’t stay in the room for long. She walked through the room and found herself into a walk in kitchen/dining area.
“Christie,” Connor called out. “Please, talk to me.”
Christiana turned back to Connor, the sharp movement made her lose her equilibrium and she had to hold onto the kitchen counter to stop her from crumbling to the floor. Connor was there within a moment, his arms holding her up. She let go of the counter and put her entire weight on him. She felt her stomach heave and she pushed away from him, moving just in time so that her vomit hit the floor beside him and missed him completely. She bent over, her hands on her knees, heaving and gagging repeatedly. Connor rubbed her back, letting her get it all out of her system.
When she was done she straightened up again, she took a moment, her arms resting on Connor’s, just staring at the contents of her stomach on the floor. She decided that it wouldn’t be that hard to clean, it was just liquid after all, she couldn’t remember the last time she had actually eaten anything. She started rummaging around the kitchen, searching for a mop and bucket. She found them in a utility cupboard. She got to work, boiling water in a kettle and finding bleach. She said nothing during this time and quietly acknowledged that Connor really did know her well not to interrupt her. Instead he sat on one of the counter stools and watched her work. He didn’t try to help, she would have just shot him down if he had tried. He just watched her. He was waiting. He was waiting as he had always done from the moment she met him, he’d become a genius at it, waiting for her to be ready.
She moved the mop over the vomit, rinsing it into the bucket and then applying a second layer of bleach. She did this meticulously for half an hour, moving onto a sponge for the sides of the counter that caught some of the spray, she got onto her hands and knees and scrubbed. She scrubbed until the smell of vomit was completely replaced with the smell of citrus bleach. Once she was satisfied, she began on emptying out the bucket, giving that a good clean and leaving it in the massive sink to soak in disinfectant. After that was all done, she took two steps back and looked over her handiwork. There was no sign at all that someone had vomited, she had done her job well. She smiled to herself, taking a deep breath and soaking the view in.
Suddenly it was back; A flash of fire, the sound of crying. She blinked and shook her head. She looked to Connor, he was still watching her his expression looking thoughtful.
“What do I do now?” She asked, eventually.
Connor didn’t say anything but he got down from his stool and walked to her. He took her hand and once again immersed it with his own. He pulled her into a walk and took her back into the orange sitting area, sitting her down on one of the circular chairs. He took the other chair and pulled it so that it was facing her. He sat down, held tightly onto both of her hands and looked her in the eye.
“For the past three years,” he said. “I have been lying to you. I was brought into your life by my sister, not because she thought that we would get along like you thought, but because she assigned me to you. It was my job to protect you, build a relationship with you, and ensure that you never came to any harm.”
Christiana didn’t know what to make of this, she just blinked stupidly at him.
“For the whole time that we have been sleeping together, I need you to know Christie that that was never part of my job. I didn’t do any of that because I was ordered to. I did it because, well, you’re pretty much the most amazing and gorgeous woman I have ever met and, after spending time with you… well… I’m only human.”
Again Christiana couldn’t work out how to respond to what he was saying. Was she angry? She didn’t think so, from the moment she heard the word ‘terrorist’ she guessed that Connor had known a lot more about what was going on that she did. She had also accepted that there was no coincidence that he was the one to come and get her. She knew all of this. She just hadn’t realised she did until now. And now he was saying this, she couldn’t feel angry, he'd saved her life. He also loved her, she had known that for months. She didn’t doubt it now. She couldn’t. But if he had known all of it? Could she forgive that? She thought of her family again and quickly pushed the thought away. She realised that it wasn’t about whether she could forgive him or whether she was angry or not with him, above all she was just too overwhelmed and too tired to care.
“Connor,” she said eventually. “I really don’t know if I have the energy to…”
“I’m not asking you to process anything right now Christie,” Connor interrupted her. “I know it’s all too much to make sense of now. But I need you to know something before you start to process it. I need you to know what I do. I need you to know that after this conversation, every new bit of information that you hear will be news to me as well. So don’t worry about dealing with it, just… just, let the information sit there for a bit, until you’re ready.”
Christiana sighed but nodded in agreement to let him continue.
“Kelly assigned me to you. She told me that you were important and that I needed to protect you and keep you away from danger no matter what. She told me that danger wasn’t going to be a massive threat on you but that I had to ensure it stayed that way. That was all I was told. That was all, all of us were told.”
“All of you?” Christiana asked.
“There was a team of us. About 250 soldiers, each assigned a person. They were nicknamed our eggs. In the sense that it was like the school project kids get given where they have to look after their egg and make sure they don’t get hurt? Well that’s what you all were to us.
“Then two weeks ago, our instructions were changed. We were given a date. Yesterday’s date. We were given a time and told that we had to get our eggs to this address. We were told that if we didn’t do this in time then the threat on their lives would be imminent. That was all I knew Christie, I just knew I had to keep you safe.”
Christiana nodded her head again to show that she understood. She still didn’t know if she had the right reaction to this information, she still didn’t feel mad at him but there was something inside her that seemed to think she should be. She should feel betrayed, she should question her relationship with him given that he had been in it because he was paid to. She considered all this, but she couldn’t bring herself to show any of those emotions. She couldn’t bring herself to feel anything towards Connor but dependency and need. She decided that this must be far more important to her for the time being, maybe she needed him more than she needed to be angry.
“Is that all you know?” She asked.
“It was.” Connor said, his face looking grim. “But it isn’t anymore. After you passed out and I brought you to bed, I went to see Kelly.”
“What did she tell you?” Christiana asked.
“In short?” Connor replied. “She told me everything.”