Found

Submitted by Whitney Trang to Contest #26 in response to: Write about a character who goes by many different names throughout their life.... view prompt

For those lucky enough to meet me, I always ask them the same question: will it be worth it?

   They usually answer yes, thoughts of their wildest dreams being fulfilled blind their rational mind. But since they gave me their consent, I grant them. It’s what I was made to do. Sometimes it turns out good, other times… not so good. I don’t stick around any more to see which outcome they receive. Based on past experience it doesn’t matter what happens, they always come back to me. They want me to fix their mistake or exploit my talents further. To prevent the same people from finding me again, I leave after I grant their wish. I change my name and appearance in the process so that they can’t recognize me. Someone else will inevitably express their deepest wish to me and once they do, I ask them the question.

   

I’ve been living in this small sea-side town for a few months now. Every evening, I went to the one and only bar in town. People gathered there to unwind after a long, busy day. It was the perfect place to people-watch and meet the residents.

   One night, I spotted a lone young man sitting alone nursing his third beer. I went over to him.

“Hello,” I said as sweetly as I could.

“Hi.” He didn’t glance at me.

“You can call me, Ryder. You are?”

“Cole.” Cole finally turned to face me.

   “You look a bit forlorn, Cole,” I said. “A young man like you shouldn’t have too many worries in this world.”

   “Looks are deceiving,” Cole smirked. “I’ve lived through horrible circumstances in my young life.”

   “Do you want to talk about it?” Cole looked at me strangely.

   “Why do you care?”

   “I am a caring person. It’s my nature,” I shrugged.

   “My father left my mother and me once his business grew into this huge success.” Cole couldn’t keep his feelings inside anymore. “He had a taste of a new life and it unfortunately didn’t include us.”

   “I’m sorry to hear that.” I tried to console him.

   “My mother’s heart broke and she never recovered. She told me he was the love of her life and now that he was gone, she had nothing to live for.”

   “I couldn’t imagine what pain that must have caused you.”

   “I haven’t talked to my father since.” Cole finished the last of his beer.

   “I see. How tragic. Do you…”

   “I want to find the person who offered the business advice to my father,” Cole interrupted me. 

   “What do you want to do once you’ve found them?” I was a bit apprehensive. 

   “I… I don’t know exactly,” Cole said. “To have overnight success like my father did, I know he must have consulted someone about his business. I want to tell them face-to-face how they ruined my life. I… I…” Cole shook with anger. If that was his one wish, I could grant it. 

   “Will it be worth it?” I asked him slowly. 

   “Of course,” Cole responded. “I would do anything.”

   “Cole, it’s lucky we ran into each other,” I said. Cole looked at me, his eyes studying my face.

   “Why’s that? Didn’t expect a sob story from a complete stranger that you’re going to tell your friends and have a good laugh about?”

   “No, that’s not it. The person who offered business advice to your father, well, that was me.” I stuck out my hand. Cole didn’t take it.

   “Y… you?” He could barely get the word out.

   “Yes. Nice to meet you.” Cole didn’t say anything. The bravado he had a few moments prior vanished. He eventually got up and walked out of the bar without a second look back at me.


~ ~ ~


   A few months later, there was a knock at my door. I went to open it and was astonished to see the person standing there. 

   “Hello, Ryder.” Cole smiled. “Nice to see you again.”

   “I’m sorry,” I said. How had he found me? “I am not Ryder.”

   “Of course you are.” Cole pushed past me and into my apartment. “You think I would forget the person who ruined my life?”

   “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said. “I’ve never seen you before in my entire life!”

   “I know you’re lying, Ryder.” Cole sat down on my couch. 

“I told you, my name isn’t Ryder.” He couldn’t have recognized me. I am nothing like the Ryder he knew.

“It was,” Cole said. “At least, that’s what you told me in Brightview. Remember that small town by the sea? We met at the bar.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve never been to a town called Brightview. I…”

“I told you I wanted to find the person who offered business advice to my father. You asked me if it would be worth it. I said yes. Then you told me who you really were.”

“I need you to leave.” This couldn’t be happening. There was no way… 

“I’ve thought a lot about what I would do to the person who ruined my life,” Cole said. “Never in a million years did I imagine that person to be someone like you.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I insisted.

“I know how you can repay me, Ryder or whatever your real name is.”

   “I can’t help you,” I insisted. 

   “You can,” Cole argued. “I’ve seen you done it. Twice now as a matter of fact.” 

   “I need you to leave my apartment,” I told him. “Or else I will call the police.”

   “If I leave here without you granting my wish, I will tell everyone what you do. I can also tell them where you are. Is that what you want? To have people bombarding you with wishes all the time?”

   “What do you want?” I couldn’t have people knowing what I did or what my whereabouts were all the time. I could handle Cole.

“I want to own a business that will put my father’s into the ground.”

 “Will it be worth it?” I had no choice but to ask.

   “Yes.” I’d never seen a person respond with so much confidence. “It will be absolutely worth it.”

   

   I don’t usually follow up on the wishes I grant. But Cole was different. A couple of days later, I read articles about Cole’s new business venture and how it was quickly changing the marketplace. Soon enough, his father’s business shut down. Cole got what he wanted. He kept his end of the bargain and told no one else what I did or where I was. It unfortunately, was our little secret.


   I kept running as I always did, hoping to throw Cole off my tail. From the most isolated cabins in the woods to the apartments in the densest of cities, Cole found me every time. He saw through my disguises. No matter where I went or how I changed my appearance, Cole was there waiting for me. He always had a wish and to him it was always worth it. First it was love. Then a big wedding. After that, it was a merger of his company with another company that resulted in even more success. Cole had a never ending list of wishes and I had no choice but to grant them.

   

~ ~ ~


“Cole, you again?” I don’t know why I still ran after granting his wishes. Bit of a habit, I guess. I barely moved into this apartment not two full days when Cole stood waiting for me in the living room.

   “It is. Hello… Do I still call you, Ryder?” Cole stepped forward. “After all this time, you haven’t told me your real name.”

   “Does it matter?” I sighed. “What is it?”

   “I have another request,” Cole said.

   “Will it be worth it?” I already knew the answer.

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