Timeless (by Alexandra Monir) Continued

8 Jul

This is a continuation of the story, TIMELESS, by Alexandra Monir. If you haven’t read the book, I sincerely insist that you do; it is definetely one of my favorite novels! Below (in the bold) is an excerpt of the last few paragraphs of the book. Enjoy!

The next morning, Michele walked up the front steps to school, a spring in her step. For the first time since her arrival in New York, she was ready to live – truly live – in her own time again. She finally felt ready to surrender to the present.

As she was digging in her bag for her homework assignment, she heard the sound of a late student skidding into the room just as the final bell rang.

‘Class, we have another new transfer student,’ Mr. Lewis announced. ‘Everyone, meet Philip Walker.’

Michele’s head snapped up in shock. Oh – my – God. She was too stunned to move a muscle as she locked eyes with the spitting image of a young Philip Walker. Michele realized with a jolt that this was who she had seen by the school office that day when she’d thought she had seen her Philip.

The new student continued to look at her with those intense sapphire eyes, even as the teacher handed him a folder of class materials. As he reached for the folder, Michele saw it on his finger – the gold signer ring that Philip had given her. The very ring she had lost.

Michele smiled at him in amazement as Philip’s words echoed in her ears: ‘I will find a way back to you. No matter what, I promise.’”

Stunned and yet in a heart-soaring state of awe, Michele was suddenly overcome with the temptation to burst into tears and to leap into her Philip’s arms. Even then, though sternly instructing herself to hold back the waterworks until they were alone, she could feel the stinging in her eyes and the blurriness taking hold of her vision. A million questions were dashing through her mind: how was it possible? Is it really him? Why does he all of a sudden look like a teenager again? Michele yearned the presence of her soul mate, and desperately missed his warm arms around her, or his bittersweet song as his fingers raced across his piano’s black and white keys. Michelle studied his every beautiful feature, not catching the perplexed expression on his face. His exquisite eyes were the color of sapphires, obtaining such a deep blue that, many times, she thought she could fall into them and land in the middle of the ocean. His luscious hair was longer, falling in thick, dark waves to his shoulders and sliding over his eyes every now and then. Everything was perfect, was the same, except for the absence of his 20th century and very gentleman-like outfit. In exchange, Philip wore a black T-shirt with a picture of “Bullet for my Valentine” printed on the front. His skinny jeans were dark blue and hung just below his waist, revealing his surrender to the 21st century style: I-like-to-strut-around-school-with-my-undies-hanging-loose. Though, despite Michele’s distaste in that style, to say that she liked it on him was an understatement. Her eyes drifted down to his finger, and she had to use all of her willpower to hold back a giggle of glee. He had the ring! When she lost it, she was 110% sure that it was the last time she would hold it, considering that she lost it at some point in the 1900s. Even though Philip himself was from the 20th century, she found it mind-blowing that, not only did he find it, but he kept it for all of these years. She was pretty sure that her heart skipped a beat at the sight of him as she blinked away tears and suddenly realized that she had become first period’s daily entertainment. Both Philip and Mr. Lewis – and pretty much the other twenty five kids in the classroom – were eyeing her curiously.

                Mr. Lewis cleared his throat. “Um, Michele, you ok?”

                Great! Attract attention to yourself, why don’t you? She shrugged him off like she was totally fine, but she could feel her cheeks heating up, and could hear smirks because of the rosy color that never failed to blanket her face in times of humiliation. She stole a glance at Philip, just to catch him scrutinizing her like she was a lunatic and/or a creepy stalker inspecting her new prey. Maybe she was a lunatic, and, as for being a stalker, she would stalk Philip any day if it meant being near him. So much for getting accustomed to living happily in her own time. But technically, Philip wasin her time, right? Michele stifled a fake cough as she muttered, “Uh, yeah, I just have allergies to, erm, dust.” Dust?! Really? Michele mentally kicked herself in the butt. How more obvious can I get??

                Poor Mr. Lewis had no idea how to react, considering his lack of children and a spouse, and therefore his lack of knowledge of female issues. She fought back the urge to flee from the situation altogether; the only aspect keeping her from leaping out the door was that her Philip was right in front of her. Returning back to reality from a mild state of shock, she, for the first time since he’s been here, soaked in his expression. He was confused, to state the least. Confused and completely creeped out from the scene she was creating. Michele’s insides froze, as she considered a painful fact. Could it be that he doesn’t even remember who I am?If that was the case, then there was no point in even talking to him alone. For the most part, she realized that he probably wasn’t even the same person. Having the privilege of traveling through multiple lifetimes – her hand flew up to the key around her neck that started her journey – she experienced things that were probably forbidden to experience in the first place. She wouldn’tbe surprised if she found herself having a one-on-one conversation withHades in her after life. But honestly, it was worthit. Michele had no regrets, nothing that she would take back, even if it meant spending eternity in the depths of hell withthat creepy three headed dog and a large chew toy. Despite her being content with her past, she now recognized the high chances of a totally other soul in his body. What can she say? God works in strange ways.

                Mr. Lewis broke the desperately awkward ice that formed in the air around us. He addressed the class, his eyes displaying exasperation to move on. He obviously wasn’t good with this sort of things, and Michele, for one, was thankful of the fact. “Philip just moved from Australia – ”

                “You mean the weird, savage place where people live with kangaroos and then shoot them for fun?” Ben interrupted, glancing at Michele every couple seconds. He definitely took to heart the little scene she constructed before and seemed envious in a way. The class giggled like they were back in kindergarten as Ben’s face morphed into a smug expression, though Michele really couldn’t find the humor in the joke. Heck, she didn’t even realize it was a joke until after her peers erupted into giggles. She hushed a neighbor and averted her eyes back to Philip, who was standing at ease in the front of the room, his eyes rolled up in annoyance. Sheesh, this really isn’t him, Michele gaped mentally. I have never seen Philip roll his eyes once before.

                “Class! Class!” Mr. Lewis ordered, scolding. “Nobody shoots kangaroos in Australia, and nobody is savage there either. Now be quiet and listen.” He turned to face Philip, and Michele could vaguely see an apologetic expression displaying in his eyes. Philip didn’t respond, or barely even acknowledged the teacher’s presence. “Philip, would you like to share a little bit about yourself to the class?”

                Michele’s lips twitched excitedly. Maybe if she could hear a little bit about him, then she could determine if he’s her Philip or not. She sat up straight, excited, and leaned forward.

                He glanced at Mr. Lewis with ticked-off eyes, and then faced the class. Michele could tell that he did his best not to look at her, and he was doing pretty damn well. He started speaking in a thick, Australian accent. “Uh, I’m Philip… Phil Walker. I’m from Sydney.”

                Philip – uh, Phil – turned back to the teacher who was leaning against his desk. So far, the chance that this attractive-in-an-emo-bad-boy-way that had the same eyes and name as Philip was in fact Philip was thinning rapidly from slim to none. Slumping back against her chair, stunned, Michele ran her fingers through her hair. I don’t get it, she thought desperately. What, is God throwing me a tease because I bended the rules a little bit? To Michele, it seemed a bit harsh, considering that she could feel her heart breaking all over again, right after the tiny taste of curing she received.

                “Anything else?” Mr. Lewis asked, urging him on.

                “No.”

                Mr. Lewis let out a hurmph and pushed off of his desk. “Ok, now let’s see where you can sit…” His eyes roamed the classroom, enlarged behind his thick glasses, and settled on a seat right between Michele and Ben. “You may go and sit in that desk right over there.” Mr. Lewis pointed to the seat as she slid farther down her seat and blushed furiously. Ugh, how is she going to live through the day?

                Phil’s eyes jumped from one seat to another, openly desperate to find a seat other than the one next to Michele. He obviously knew where the desk was, though he still asked, “Where?”

                “Right over there.”

                “There?”

                “Yes, Phil, there.”

                Phil reluctantly bent down to swing his black bag over his shoulder, and dragged his feet to the desk neighboring Michele’s. Though she knew that it was against all of the implied regulations that were a package deal to her new conclusion, her heart fluttered in denial as he drew near.

                His bag dropped to the floor witha thump and he slid into his chair witha sigh. Michele leaned forward in her seat, her head dropped so her curly hair concealed her eyes. Glancing quickly at Phil with her peripheral vision, she caught him staring at her. She cringed without even reading his expression, frightened like a kitten for three reasons. First, she threw at him yet another reason to think that she’s a complete creep; as everyone learned in kindergarten, staring isn’t nice.  Second, if he was glaring at her, she honestly couldn’t take it. She probably would havebroken down witha river of tears pooling on her desk before the bell even rang. And third… no matter which Philip it was – Phil, the punk rocker who seemed exactly the opposite of Philip, or Philip, her soul mate for all of eternity – she was still under the impression that there was hope. As a dedicated optimist, she was practically frantically searching for a little crack of sunshine in all of this, one little spark of hope that would keep her from giving up the cause and keep her dignity alive. At this point, it was even beyond her dignity, which was a pretty big step for her. Philip showed her everything that she had lost when her mom died. He relit the fire that had blown out inside of her, even when she was 100% sure that her mom was the only one who could light it in the first place.

                She was a millisecond away from averting her eyes back to her fidgeting hands at killing herself for peeking when she realized with some oddly flattering form of shock that he was looking at her. As in, reallylooking at her. As in he was scrutinizing her so deeply that he scarcely noticed that she was staring back at him. It was mesmerizing, the way that his sapphire eyes flared like blue fire with such intensity that it sent shivers down her back. Their eyes locked when he noticed her glance, and emotions flickered across Phil’s face: concentration, confusion, frustration, and one that she couldn’t put her finger down on. What is it? Is it just because her brain isn’t working properly due to the way that his stare turns her brains to scrambled eggs, or what? Then, it popped into her head, and as corny as it sounds, the best way to describe it honestly was like a light bulb flickering on. And her heart froze in a whirlpool of emotions that were overflowing her body. The last emotion that she recognized in Phil’s beautiful eyes was a faint hint of familiarity.

                Shocked, Michele finally tore her eyes from his and, as she averted them to Mr. Lewis – though her stunned mind didn’t allow her to make out his words – Phil cleared his throat and looked down. He recognized her! Well, sort of. But at least it was something to hold on to. It was like out of a world of new found darkness and desperation, a tiny ray of sunrise peaked out from the horizon and streaked the black sky. And though it wasn’t much, and his expression elucidated that his sweet moment of clarity had been wiped away, her optimism insisted that it could only get better from there.

                Almost as if on cue, someone had nudged her arm from the side: a gesture to turn around. Before she did, her lips twitched in anticipation. She knew that touch before; Michele realized it was Phil before she even peaked. It is incredible, really, how someone could become so accustomed to anything and everything about a person: their touch, their smell, even their mere presence. It may be rare, but as Michele had learned to discover, rarity played a major role in her everyday life.

                Her heart pounding a thousand beats a second, she glanced over her shoulder, nothing but Philip – old and new – darting from wall to wall of her mind.

                Michele had to remind herself to breathe, the sight so natural and common and yet the most wondrous thing in the world. She never really got used to Phil, and the effect that it left on her mind was leaving her faint. Phil was watching her intently with those large azure eyes with one arm extended, offering a folded slip of paper.

                Michele peaked nervously at Mr. Lewis, who was too engrossed on his discussion about John Adam’s presidency to notice their lapse in attention. Turning back to Phil, Michele gulped silently and hesitantly reached for the slip of paper in his hand. And, as she gripped the tiny, ripped sheet of lined paper her skin gingerly touched his, and electric sparks shot up her arm.

                She gasped and met his blue eyes, only to find his as wide and shocked as her own. In all truthful honesty, she shouldn’t have been that surprised. Those pleasurable sparks of – for a lack of a better word– love ran through her body at his mere touch; they always have. Her brain should havebeen accustomed to it by now. In fact, her mind was barbarically screeching to the rest of her body, “Shut your mouth! Act natural! Act cool!” but of course, her stubborn everything from her neck down wouldn’t even appear to be listening. So much for the whole “act natural” façade. Act natural? She might as well have put a sign around her neck in bright neon colors that read, “I’m a creep that freaks out from a strangers simple touch.” And that wasn’t even a touch. That was like a skim of the hand. Yeah, not a touch. And still she couldn’tmanage to shut her gaping mouth.

                She finally mastered up the will to pry her lips closed. Nervously, she glanced over her shoulder at Mr. Lewis, who was, once again, too engrossed in his discussion to notice their little romantic scene back there. Romantic? No, that’s not quite the word. For Michele, maybe, but not for Phil. At least not yet. The word was more… eerie. Eerie and yet familiar at the same time. Like a stranger that you know you’ve seen before, and yet you’re 110% sure you’ve never met. Ugh, life. Wait, let’s rephrase. Ugh, Michele’s life.  

                Almost automatically, and eyeing the memorable ring that was hugging his index finger, Michele gripped the slip of paper and slid it out of his hand.

                She sighed to herself, shaking from post-Phil affect, and opened the folded note. In scribbled handwriting – he obviously didn’t inherit Philip’s careful and precise hand – Phil wrote,

Do I know you?”

                Now, if none of these other incidents cued the tears, this one just did the trick. He remembered her. He actually rememberedher. How was that even possible? She really didn’t have a clue, and at the time, as tears were swelling up in her eyes, she really didn’t care much at all.

                Michele flipped the paper over eagerly and scribbled, “Yes” on the back. Making sure she discreetly cleared her face from stray tears, she turned her head to him and handed him the note. She, as a very respectful-of-privacy kind of girl – as if – she sincerely tried to turn her head. Settling the dispute withher head and her heart by staring intently at the window next to Phil and watching him with her peripheral vision, she kept tabs on his emotions. He hadn’t even opened it yet. Why?

                Her knees started knocking together in excitement as he turned the paper over and stared at the words. Just after he read them, and flashes of emotions played across his face, the bell rang, cutting the stiff classroom air like a knife.

                Michele bent down to grab her backpack and swung it around her shoulder before she made her way out of the room. Don’t look back, don’t look back, don’t look back. She had made the decision that she already made a big enough fool of herself for one day, and trying to talk to him wouldn’texactly help the situation. Yeah, her defective social skills would help as much as pouring diet soda onto a dying plant. Not the sharpest idea.

                However, as she soon realized, the paranoia wasn’t needed and, well, was going to have to wait for some time.

                “Hey,” she heard a deep, familiar voice from behind her, an Australian accent tinting the velvet voice that she once knew. A warm hand rested on her shoulder, a hand that she used to lean into as she fell asleep. Or, at least a similar hand. She wasn’t exactly sure yet.

                It was enough to turn to head, though. When she did, her eyes met a mere few inches from Phil’s. Her breath couldn’t catch, she was practically paralyzed – she was immune to any form of body control that she just had moments ago –  and her mind was barely a mind any more. Scrambled thoughts, shrieking voices like a failed attempt at harmony, thoughts crashing into the walls of her head like the ocean’s waves against jagged rocks in a storm. At some hidden corner at the back closet of her mind, she heard a muffled voice shriek, “Move, you idiot!” with such gusto that that tiny part of her brain was taken aback. She gained the realization that she had stopped moving, and rubberneckers, including Ben, halted on their tracks to observe the obscene scene. Well, to put it more precisely, Ben halted on his tracks to glareat the scene. As far as Michele could tell, this wasn’t the best of his days. But, at the time, it had barely occurred to her that anything was happening. For all she knew, the whole world was a million light years behind them. And they were flying. Somewhere engulfed in a blue as deep as the glittering sea before a sunset. Blue was all she could taste, see, smell, all she knew and all she would ever know. And it’s been so long since she’s been there. In that beautiful place that could only compare to paradise, and even there, paradise would be dulled next to this wondrous world that belonged to them.

                Suddenly, the ocean, her own world, theirown world vanished beneath her as Phil tore his eyes from hers and glimpsed around himself. The action seemed almost reluctant – and the thought made her heart skip a beat – but she couldn’t know for sure. But all she didknow was that Phil was as deep in that dream as she was, because he hadn’tdetected the watchers either. Muttering something under his breath, he grabbed her hand and started making his way down the hall, hauling a shocked Michele along with him. The snickering high school students scattered to their classrooms, giggling about what they had just observed. As if this day couldn’t get any worse.

                “Where the hell are you going?!” Ben roared from behind them, though class had started minutes ago and the hallways were cleared out. Michele could honestly care less about being late for class, though it could have well been the fact that her mind and soul were still stirring from, well, Phil. If she had the power to say something – anything – oh, she would have tackled that chanced from behind. But, no, her spirit was so dazzled by the simple presence of this new boy in her old soul mate’s being that her right mind could hardly keep up with the situation.

                A negligent Phil kept strutting down the hall, either purposely ignoring a fuming Ben advancing on them or too lost in his own thoughts to even notice. One or the other, Ben was furious for some strange reason, and Phil ignoring him was the feather that weighed him down and threw him off the edge of the cliff.

                “Hey! Scumbag, I’m talking to you!” He stomped right up next to Phil and glared at him, his eyes frighteningly wild from behind long lashes. Seriously, she could haveseen a lunatic on the streets of Harlem with a gun that obtained eyes saner than Ben’s. And what’s odd is that whenever he and Michele were together, there was never a moment when he wasn’t cool and composed, like the majority of the “popular kids” in high school. And now? Forget about coming home, buddy, because he’s got to get used to an exciting place called a psychiatric ward.

                Phil, whose hand was still linked to Michele’s, planted his feet on the ground and eyed Ben, his expression dangerous. It was more than terrifying to view it from a paralyzed set of eyes, and, in reality, she should have broken it up right there and then before matters got worse. Once again, her obstinate spirit refused to listen to advice and stayed silent in a state of shock. “Can I help you?” Phil seemed to be at total ease, soaking in Ben’s appearance from head to toe like a sponge soaking up water, but also frighteningly like he was examining an enemy before he struts into battle.

                Ben, who hadn’t even noticed Michele even existed in his ludicrous rampant, finally glanced at her. Well, he glanced at a part of her. Ben stared with a hard expression at their joined hands, and it just seemed to add some extra weight on his already-weighed-down self, and the more weight, the closer the temper meter neared to hysterical. His eyes shifted back to Phil’s who cocked an eyebrow, as if waiting for a reply.

                “Yeah,” Ben fumed, his fists balling and his top lip curling into a snarl. “You can. Let her go or you’re going to wish you never left Australia, you freaking foreigner.”

                Phil’s expression darkened. It was either Ben was extremely stupid or he had no idea of what was going on. Or he was terribly brave, which could have very well been the case, judging from previous actions, but that would just have roamed back to the “stupid” category. If Michele were in Ben’s place, she would have been shivering in her boots just by his expression. Nobody should really mess with Phil, by the looks of it.

                “Or what, Fabio?” Maybe it was for pride, or for show, or just because he wanted to, but Phil tugged Michele towards him and tucked her under his arm. Without thought – or so it seemed – Phil shifted her sort of in back, so if Ben grew Satan’s horns and started charging, he would pretty much take the bullet. Or the horns. Whichever comes first. “You going to hit me with your purse?”

                Ben laughed humorlessly, his face twisted into rage that definitely dampened his handsome features. “You have issues, man. Let go of her, or I’m going to make you.”

                Phil held a traumatized Michele tighter to his chest and replied with a curt, “No.”

                “You asked for it.” Ben swung his arm back and Michele gasped. Is he going to hit Phil?! She was about to scream, though her hands were covering her mouth like a muzzle and she was once again begging her stubborn spirit to keep quiet, when Phil shoved her behind him, grabbed Ben’s fist in the air, and decked him in the face. SMACK! Just like that. Ben slumped to the ground, unconscious. It was easy to tell that he was out cold, and Michele was in too deep of shock to break the still silence.

                She stared at him, stuttering, groping for the right words. After what she’d just experienced, Michele had seriously no intention of ticking him off, and then again she yearned to punch him in the gut for hitting her friend. But that wouldn’t do much, would it? “What? Uh… you… uh, what the –“

                Phil shrugged it off like it was nothing, though she could notice his fist reddening and swelling by the second. “It’s whatever,” he remarked, his eyes expressionless and almost bored.

                Rage swelled in Michele’s soul, like storm clouds rumbling into a clear sky, and thunder crackling like those old cliché thrillers. “One dark and stormy night,” the narrator would begin. Well, cue the lighting, because Michele was 110% ready to hurt somebody, preferably someone whose name is Phil.

                Her graceful hands balled up into unattractivefists and she stomped a step toward him. Expecting him to stumble back and shiver like a scared puppy who had an encounter with the most menacing dog at the park, she let herself trudge another step towards him, pretty much closing the space between them. He hadn’t staggered back like she had desperately hoped, but her face displayed no dismay, or, rephrased, her face exposed nothing of what she was experienced inside.

                She pointed a finger in his face. “If you ever hit any of my friends again then I will find some way to put your pretty little head on a platter. Got it?”

                His lips quirked up, showing that he was verging on the point of amusement. Oh, he was so close to a major spanking by peaceful Michele Windsor herself.  Bruised hand or not, he was going to get it.

                 She hoped.

                Phil started walking toward her, but the problem was that she was right in front of him. Even though it killed her macho façade, she backed up until her back hit the lockers and she was officially cornered. This is why Michele stayed out of fights. As hot tempered as she was, she was about as violent as Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma who was just about to get eaten by this big bad wolf. He leaned in, his amusement flaring to the maximum, as was Michele’s frustration at not being able to do anything about it.

                Leaning even farther in – and with no possible place the Michele could escape to – he breathed a menacing, “And how exactly are you going to do that, Michele?”

                Push him! Her conscious was instructing her, though she was pretty sure if she went down with her mind’s screeching she would end up as poor Ben over there. Just do it! Do it! Mom would! She grunted at the annoying truth of the words. Mom definitely would push him, as the absolute minimum. He would be getting off easy if he just got a little push. Gathering up any of the dignity and willpower that were left, she shut her eyes and shoved him as hard as she could and with a GRUNT! he fell flat on his butt.

                Still on the ground, he peered at her from behind those thick, dark lashes with an expression that was impossible to read. And she honestly didn’t havethe courage to take the time to read it. Before he could manage to spit a word out of his lips, she started darting to outside, fully prepared to ditch with fully restored dignity inside of her.

                Just as her hands were reaching out to thrust open the school doors and dart into the blinding light of early spring, a strong hand gripped her elbow like a metal hold, swinging her back and allowing her to go absolutely no where. Michele didn’t need to glance back to reassure herself that it was in fact Phil whose hand was wrapped firmly around her arm. Ugh, so close!!!! Her mental voice whined as she tried and failed miserably to jerk her elbow out of his hold.

                “That wasn’tvery nice,” Phil remarked under his breath, amusement dripping from each word like honey from a spoon. Before Michel e could reply, Phil swung open the doors and dragged Michele outside, who was rapidly losing her new-found pride by the second.

                Michele’s heals dug into the ground, or as best as they could on pavement. “Let go of me,” Michele growled through her gritted teeth, but honestly, she was just wasting her breath. Phil was heaving her along so easily that she might was well be a 20 pound puppy resisting the pull on her leash.

                They approached a shiny, black truck, and, as angry as she was, she couldn’t help but notice how the color of his car was so dark in matched his thick hair. It even glistened the same way that Phil’s did in the sun. Not that it was completely dazzling or anything. Not at all.

                Still gripping her arm so tight that her fingers were starting to numb, Phil dug into his jeans pockets and fished out the keys to his car. At this point, Michele just stopped trying to escape. It was no use, as she had begun to realize. Now she started gathering brilliant ideas for evading from his car. She could always jump out, that is, if he didn’t lock it, and if he doesn’t have one of those bothersome cars where you can only unlock it from the driver’s side. Ugh. Though Michele was far from admitting it herself, her brilliant ideas were about to take her roughly about nowhere.

                With Phil’s strong hand still imprisoning her elbow, he clicked a button on hi s keys and the car emitted a beeping sound as the headlights flashed. He swung open the car door to the passenger seat and motioned with his hands to go in. The easiness that he emanated was past the point of frustration, and stubborn Michele refused to give into him. She kept her feet planted firmly on the ground, gritted her teeth and snarled, “I’m not going anywhere with you, you ignorant, obnoxious creep. You’d better let go of me right now or I’ll call the police and report you kidnapping me.” Phil stared at her, his impassive eyes hinting no form of emotion. Is he actually considering?? Her eyebrows quirked up, smug, ready to take on the proud lights of victory, with the paparazzi snapping pictures of her in every direction.  

                His eyes suddenly rolled, his features twisting into an expression of irritation. “Oh, just get in the car.”

                Michele stood her ground and placed her hands on her hips. “I won’t!” Yes, she realized how childish it sounded; she might as well have stuck her tongue out like a three year old taunted by the mean kid at the play ground. Michele actually had to restrain herself from stomping her foot.

                Phil sighed and took a step forward. Michele, who was soon to be cornered once again by Phil, began to stumble back when Phil reached out and grabbed her elbow again. He yanked her close to him, fast and possessive but oddly gentle, and she gasped as he slipped his other hand under her knees and picked her up as if she weighed ten pounds.

                “Let me down!” she shrieked, her heart racing.

                He ignored her plea and placed her gently down in the car. She stared at him, incredulous. “Really? Was that necessary?!”

                “Chill out. You were being difficult.”

                “So that’s what you do when people get difficult?? My God, you’vechanged.” She threw her hands up in exasperation and sighed as they fell to her lap along with her suddenly heavy head. Her head was practically fully forward now, and she fought back tears that sprung to her eyes. Oh, jeesh, why now?!

                “Don’t pretend like you know me, Michele.”

                She shut her eyes and could feel her heart breaking from the memories her and Philip had shared. “But I do.”

                Silence settled awkwardly, and Michele could feel his eyes boring holes into her but she refused to meet them. She simply let her head hang, and waited patiently for him to do something, anything, that would end this moment.

                He finally let out a breath and she heard the door slam shut and the one next to her open seconds later as Phil entered the car. He stuck the keys into the ignition and turned them, starting the black truck with a furious rumble. Backing out of the school’s driveway and onto the main road, Michele and Phil flew off to… somewhere. Nowhere in Michele’s eyes.

                As quickly as the grief arrived, it left just as rapidly, drained and replaced by, once again, anger. After moments of letting it heat up, Michele was amazing how ticked off she could really become. Seriously, her rage at everything that was going on – from him hitting Ben to forcing her into his car – the emotion that stirred inside her was just about beyond explanation.

 I don’t care if his eyes match Philip’s. I don’t care that he practically paralyzes my heart even though I just met him today. I really don’t care that I have the random temptation to run my fingers through his luscious hair, just like Philip always used to do when he was angry. No, I don’t care. I hate him. I HATE him. Michele tried to convince herself. She told herself over and over again that what she felt wasn’t anything but an extremely large amount of hate. But who was she fooling? Sure, she definitely had the urge to yank Phil’s gorgeous hair out of his head, or kick him below the belt until he’s writhing on the ground in tears. But Michele had to face facts. Was it possible to make Phil cry? She seriously doubted it. Even if it was, would she try it? But then again, what’s the point of even asking that question??

                Michele turned her head, her dignity reduced to, once again, zero. No, scratch that. Her dignity was in the negatives at this point. Staring out of the dirty windows and watching the scenery rush by in a swirl of colors, she asked angrily, “Where are we going?”

                He remained silent. The still air sat between them awkwardly, causing Michele to shift uncomfortably, until Phil replied, “My place.”

“Uh, why?”

“Because we have to talk.”

Michele eyed him warily. “And we couldn’t have talked in school?”

He chuckled and kept his gaze on the road. “You were created a pretty big scene in the classroom, and I didn’t want to add to the bravado.”

She folded her arms obstinately. “Well, who says it was all about you? Vain much?”

Glancing at her with an are-you-kidding-me expression, he insisted, “Oh, come on, Michele. I can’t be the only one between us that is sure that we’ve met before. And I’m just not talking about, like, an encounter at Starbucks on a Saturday morning; I’m talking about a real relationship. And that spark back in the classroom…” He trailed off, deep in thought.

He felt the spark too! At the time, Michele was 99.9% positive that the feeling was a one way street. It seems like the .1% won over this time. And not only did he feel that magical spark that she’s experienced so many times in her life with him, but he remembers her. Well, not exactly. Not yet. But at least he recognizes that she’s just not some girl. They’re getting somewhere.

But that didn’t mean that he was off the hook for acting like a jerk. Though her heart was beating like the invisibly rapid flaps of a bluebird’s wings, she was proud of her strong voice. “You sound crazy, Phil.”

Michele, waiting patiently for a response, received none at all. No anger, no frustration, no words of exasperation. Nothing. Zip. Zero.

The rest of the car ride was uneventful and, for a lack of a better phrase, painfully awkward. Country music from an FM station played softly in the background, but honestly, in the background of what? There was no ground in the first place. It had slipped out from under her and she was currently fallen flat on her butt in some rude kid’s car – though she knew she wasn’t fooling anybody by insisting that he’s just some random kid – listening to Casting Crowns as she stared out of the window.

After what seemed like forever, they pulled into a newly-built driveway and he parked directly in front of an exquisite, extravagant mansion of a house. Michele’s jaw dropped open, stunned, though she shouldn’t have been; the house that she presently lived in was more or less twice the size of this.

But it was pretty darn big.

“You livehere?” Michele whispered incredulously, almost to herself. Phil, however, took the keys out of the ignition and leaped out the door, making his way towards Michele’s. Swinging open the door for her, he replied, amused, “You shouldn’t be so surprised, Miss Rich-and-Famous. You’re a Windsor, aren’t you? Ah, a family rival.”

Michele nodded absentmindedly, still astonished by the enormous structure that he called a house. And it’s not as if she was being hypocritical; she was far from calling her grandparents’ house her home. She slept there, she ate there, but it would never be her home.  

She allowed him to help her out of the car, pleasantly – and internally – surprised at his gentleman-like act. It reminded her of Philip.

Shutting the door behind her, she trailed behind Phil, soaking in her surroundings.

It was beyond astonishing. An exquisite garden of bright dandelions and tulips sprout all around her, with roses of every shade creating a romantic aura. Brilliant trees, as strong and stubborn-looking as the Walker family itself, allowed the house some privacy from the outside world, but still let them watch the people walking or the beautiful sunset if they pleased.

“Are you coming or what?” Phil asked, laughing, already at the end of the trail while she was stuck, dumbfounded right smack in the middle. She blushed and scurried to where he was standing, careful not to ram into him like a crazy bull.

He inserted a fancy looking key into a keyhole, and they entered the most beautiful home that she’s ever seen, aside from her grandparents’. High cathedrals rose up to the sky and a large crystal chandelier hung from it. Intricate designs of crimsons and teals danced across the soft, yellow paint on the walls, giving off a modest, modern, and very homey feeling.

“Come on!” Phil urged, snapping her out of my trance. A warm hand grabbed hers, and she was in too deep a state of awe to resist. He led her to a beautifully contemporary kitchen, swung open a door, and walked her down two flights of stairs.

When they had finally reached the bottom, everything was so dark that she was even in that annoying state when she was having difficulties identifying what was reality. Phil’s hand released hers and she heard footsteps make a path toward the center of the floor. She heard a loud CLICK! and suddenly the room was flooded with extremely bright light, causing Michele to cringe and squint her eyes.

When her eyes had become accustomed to the brightness of the room, she finally took in her setting.

It was outstanding how much could fit into this room. She wouldn’t call it small – in fact, it was very, very large – but so many things were compacted into the space that it forced everything to looksmaller than it actually was. She noted a ping pong table, a pool table, a large flat screen TV with couches neighboring it, a huge mirror, racks of baby clothes, and so much more. But what really caught her eye was the grand piano that was lying all alone in the center of the room. It might as well have had a spotlight glaring down at it, for when Michele had noticed it, she couldn’t tear her eyes away.

Because this was the same piano that Philip, her old Philip, played on in the 1900s. She was so sure that this was Philip’s piano that she would have bet anything on it. And Michele was never a gambler.

With so many questions shooting through her soul like rockets and yet fear of the answers blanketing her confidence, she was anxious to talk about something else. She glanced at Phil who was, embarrassingly, leaning across the room on the wall parallel to her, watching her every move like a hawk. Her cheeks burned that familiar rosy red, and she pretended that she didn’t notice his full lips twitch up to a smile.

“Aren’t you afraid that your parents are going to catch you ditching school?”

He didn’t reply at first, then he pushed off the wall and ambled towards her. “At this point of my life, my parents are the least of my worries.”

Michele ogled at him, confused. Philip was always concerned about his family. Something was wrong, and she could feel it from the bottom of her soul. Well, everything was wrong about this situation, but something was off. “Why?” she wondered out loud.

Phil scrutinized her expression intently as he replied curtly, “Because I have no idea who they are.”

They both fell silent, Phil awaiting a remark from Michele and Michele gaping at Phil. That wasn’tright. What?! No wonder she felt something was strange about the situation. Then who did he live with? Why does he still call himself a Walker? Maybe he’s not even related to Philip in any way, magical or not, and Michele was just getting hallucinations from depression. She wouldn’t have been shocked.

She took a step towards him, compassion washing through her. “I’m sorry. Who do you live with?”

He stared at her, his expression softening at her empathy. “Family friends.”

Michele remained silent, hoping he would elaborate without her help. Guess not, huh? “So were you brought here as a kid, or…” Her voice faded off, clearly motioning him to explain in a – she hoped – still sympathetic way.

Stillness settling in the air between them and silence ringing in her ears, Phil pivoted on his heal and started sauntering away towards the piano. With his back still facing her and his hand leaning on the cool, flat top of it, he answered, “When I was a baby, my parents left me on the outside of Mile’s and Janine’s door, my step parents, in the winter with nothing but a cloth around me and a strange letter.” He sighed, his voice heavy and his Australian accent deep with pain. He continued, “When I turned one, Miles and Janine decided they needed a fresh new start for their family, considering that I woke up screaming every night with nightmares. So, we moved to Australia.”

Oh, so that’s why he has such a strong accent.Michele’s heart was bleeding for him. He seemed like he was in such pain and despair when he talked about his parents, and though her mind was still ranting on with questions, she quietly walked up behind him and laid a supporting hand on his shoulder. Phil’s hand subconsciously reached over and covered hers on his shoulder, and she couldn’t deny the fact that her heart skipped a beat or two.

Phil continued with his story. “For the time being, I was relatively happy. I met great friends, I learned to love Miles and Janine and their baby, Gemma. Except, every single night I would have the same dream. The same nightmare, really. And when I would enter the dream, my mind would confirm that I was having the dream again, but whenever I woke up, I could never recall what it was about. The only aspects I remember each time are mirrors, a piano, and unforgettable hazel eyes.”

He met my gaze and whispered, “Just like yours.”

This is it, Michele’s obnoxious mind was whispering to her soul excitedly. Everything was coming together. Like pieces of a puzzle.   

Turning back, Phil sniffled, as if he, the famous macho man who punched Michele’s friend unconscious, were crying. But she could have easily been mistaken. Phil, however, seemed restless to change the subject, or at least discuss something a little bit less painful. Michele was completely content with that; to see this guy in pain was like experiencing it herself, only magnified.

“You know I’m in a band,” he said, his voice falsely gleeful. It was depressing how much of an awful actor he was, but Michele just played along with it, desperate to keep him away from the tears.

“Oh, yeah?” Michele giggled, actually honestly curious. “What kind of band?”

“I’m the lead guitarist and singer in a rock band called Rebellion. You should listen to our pieces sometimes. I write them.” He started explaining all this and ranting on, but more to himself than to Michele. She just listened, intrigued. Phil rambled on about how his admiration for music by Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith would never cease, and how one day he wants to become just like Steven Tyler. He even used those scarves to wrap around his microphone, just like Steven Tyler did.

After a while about all this rock talk – and Michele was paying attention, truthfully interested at all he was saying – Phil met her gaze and snapped back to reality again. “You know what my band doesn’t know about me, though?” A grin was tugging at the sides of his lips, mischievous and as cute as humanly possible. 

Michele laughed at his expression. “I’m scared to know. Are you going to tell me something like you’re also a zombie killer in your spare time, because all of this is pretty much unbelievable to me.”

Hooting along with me, Phil claimed, “Believe it! My future is set, babe. I’m becoming a star.”

“Interesting. Come back to me on that one in ten years. Now about the answer I’m scared to discover…”

He beamed at her, his eyes teasing. “Yes, it’s true. I’m a killer. You’re my next victim, Michele, so you’d better run!” He chased her around the room, and Michele and Phil cracked up at practically nothing until tears were streaming down their face and they had to bend down to dampen the pain of the blissful cramps in their stomachs. It was exhilarating to be able to laugh again. Michele realized that it was the first time in a while that she was truly happy. Without Philip and her mom, she forgot what it really felt like to grin without reason, or to laugh until she had no energy to keep on laughing. And, in all honesty, it was the best feeling in the world.

When all of the cackling simmered down to mere giggles, Phil finally managed to get out, “Nobody in my band knows that I love playing piano.”

Michele gasped, ecstatic that she found yet another aspect that linked Phil to Philip. Or Philip to Phil. Either way, they were linked, and she was joyful past the point of elucidation.

“Play something for me,” she insisted.

Phil agreed and stalked over to the black, cushioned piano bench from behind the piano. Michele rested her arms on the top and her chin on her arms, observing him sliding his hands over the smooth black and white keys. With one last glance at her, he started playing a familiar melody.

Michele’s heart froze, mid-beat.

He’s playing our song! How he even knew about “Bring the Colors Back”, the piece that Philip and Michele wrote themselves, escaped from her mind, but currently, she was lost in the beauty of the chords he played. She closed her eyes and fell into the melody, and found herself singing along. “Why, when you’re gone, the world’s gray on my own, you bring the colors back…”

Her eyes still shut closed, she raised her arms over her head and let all of the memories rush back to her, like removing a boulder from a stream. When her and Philip first met at the Windsor’s Halloween ball, when he was engaged to that awful Violet. When Philip played ragtime for Violet and her mother chastised him for playing “race music”. When they wrote, “Bring the Colors Back” together. Their picnics by the lake, their secret kisses outside of his home’s gate, when he gave her his family ring… But she couldn’t think about that now. She wouldn’t think about that now. “Why, I feel numb, I’m a sky without a sun, just take away the lack, and bring the colors back.” Despite her mental wishes, the song neared its end, and Phil played his last chord.

Michele’s ears rang at the abrupt silence, and she smiled slightly before she opened her eyes. When she did, she cringed to find Phil gaping at her, his mouth dropped open and his sapphire eyes wider than anything she’s seen with him. “What’s wrong?” she asked, breathing heavily from singing and twirling to the exquisitely memorable melody.

Phil grinned wildly and reached into his shirt. For a scary second, Michele thought he was going to yank something out of his shirt as ludicrous as his smile, but all that he pulled out was a worn-looking locket. Now, before you go thinking with a set mind that it’s not masculine to wear lockets, well, it looked pretty darn good on Phil. But then again, Phil could wear a paper bag and still look amazing.

Clicking open the locket, Phil carefully and yet urgently pulled out a yellowing piece of folded paper that resembled a letter, or an old fashioned letter, to be exact. Phil met my eyes excitedly. “This is the letter that was left with me as a baby. Read it.” He directly jerked it in Michele’s face, persistent and urgent. She raised her eyebrows, wondering what this could be about, but catching onto Phil’s contagious excitement. Over what?

She took hold of the letter and glanced down at the text. With shivering hands, she read:

“Dear Philip,

Before you run around with life, determined to creed that you’re alone in this world, let me clarify: you were never alone, you are not alone, and, Philip, you will never, ever, be alone. Even in times of despair, think of those who love you, like Miles or Janine. They truly do love you, so believe it. And I love you, too, I hope you know. And I can relate to you so much, my friend. I know what being alone feels like. Being alone is falling in love with the most perfect stranger, but only to be allowed to see her by nature’s cruel choice. Oh, Philip, she’s wonderful. I’m doing this because I want a second chance. Because I was given a second chance, and this time, I will not fail her.

                Philip, I understand how crazy this sounds to you, and the last thing I want you thinking is that I’m a lunatic. Then again, maybe I am. But aren’twe all? Yes, we all are. She taught me to accept that. But sanity only reaches certain levels, as does madness. And to you, who are a virgin to the truth, will probably take this the wrong way and throw this letter out once you reach the age of maturity. But, Philip, as a friend, a loved one, and a perfect stranger, I am begging you. Don’t throw this out. And please read this with an open mind.

                I am you, Philip, just as you are me. I was given a second chance at love, and, though you will not remember writing this, I am you. Knowing our minds, we are realistic. Or, at least I was until she came into my life. A realistic is someone who thinks everything through logically. Is this logical? Of course not. In fact, this is the exact opposite, making this sound even more terribly preposterous to you. But you, I, we, will meet her again, and you must do exactly is written, or another chance is wasted and this time, it is our last.

                I am forbidden to reveal too much to you, Philip, though what I can say is that she is beyond beautiful. And once you see her, you will know that she is the one. The odds are that she is going to ogle at you with those dazzling, large hazel eyes and you will think that she is some crazy girl. But, as time goes by, you will realize that she is so much more.

                You will play for The Song. Philip, you know exactly which I’m talking about. It’s in your blood, and your instinct will guide you to play it perfectly. IF, by any chance (and this is a big if) she sings along, you will know for sure that she is the one. Nature will guide you from there. But, I beg of you, it may sound crazy what she will try to explain to you, but believe it. Oh, it’s the realest thing in the world. If she cannot show you, just as she could not show her face to me for sixteen long and painful years, believe her words and trust her with your whole being, because she deserves that and so much more. Love is a strong word, Philip, and when you learn to say it through life, those who truly love you will say it back.

                Let her read this, Philip. My love, this is for you. I’vemissed you terribly. Every day was a struggle for me, despite my music that released some of the weight from the shoulders and the grief from my heart. Do you remember Melinda? The woman at my piano concert that congratulated me and hugged me? Well, we married soon after and had five beautiful children: Mary, Chelsea, Alice, Michael, and Aidan. Oh, you would lovethem so. I loved them with all of my heart and they meant the world to me, but no words can describe the pain that I felt for losing you. Though, as I’ve stated, I cannot explain all that I wish to explain to you, but I do want you to know that I love you so much it hurts. I have changed, my love. Time has wounded me, and the turn of the century took effect on my 1900s self. However, I want you – I need you to remember that this is still me. We are still meant to be, and somewhere inside the boy in front of you is the man I used to be. Find him, darling, and you have found me. I love you. You are my melody. I promised you I would find a way back to you, no matter what. I keep my promises. I cannot wait until we are together again.

Love with all of my might,

Phoenix Warren

Ps. I found your ring.

                By the time Michele had finished reading the letter, tears were already streaming fiercely and freely down her face. It’s true then. This is Philip. This is my Philip. She was speechless, and a mixture of deep, harsh, exhilarating emotions were crashing through her body and spirit. Ecstatic he’s here, despaired that he doesn’tfully remember her, frightened that she’ll remain unremembered. Phoenix Warren. The memory of her discovering that Philip was actually Phoenix Warren, a secret heir to the Walker throne when everyone thought he was dead. But no. Just as he had promised to her, Philip had pursued his dream to play piano. With too many emotions to hold inside of her, she let out a cry and hugged the letter to her chest, then sank to the floor.

                “Michele!” Phil exclaimed and fell to his knees to level withher. He gripped her shoulders possessively and, with sobs racking her body, she threw her arms around him desperately and held onto him as if she was afraid that if she let go, he would scurry away. Her Philip couldn’t run away again. Not again.

                Phil hushed her, whispering cliché yet soothing words in her ear and stroking her hair. His touch calmed her, so her bawls reduced to mere tears rolling down her cheeks. His lips mumbled softly in her ear, “Michele, though I don’t understand any of this, I believe what that letter says. I don’t know who Phoenix Warren is, and, quite honestly, half of the letter is rambling to me. But, I believe it all. And I believe you are special. I knowyou are special. I’ve known you for a day, but that’s all I need, Michele.”

                Michele leaned back so she could read his expression. Was he being sarcastic? Was this all a joke to him? But when she met his deep sapphire eyes, she understood that every word that left his lips was the absolute truth. They spent so many beautiful moments just staring into each other’s eyes, desperate for the moment not to last, and yet anticipating tomorrow and the day after that, knowing they have all the time in the world to get to know each other and learn the true meaning of love all over again.

                “Michele,” Phil laughed giddily with tears in his eyes. “I remember you.”

THE END