In twilight my hair was blacker, my skin more olive and my eyes larger. I drew the shawl around her, clasping it tight to my collar bone to ward off the nascent chill. The garish colours of the market had been toned down as if washed gently in a quarry water, everything that little bit more grey. It was better than flying the helicopter but the thrill of being in constant action punctured into my veins like an antidote to depression. However then there was the constant fashion sense of wearing khaki full body, but to live outside the eye of the army, I could wear blues, yellows, pinks, blacks, reds, whites and so on, so forth.
Sighing, I yawned as I looked down at my watch, half past 8; time to feed Nora, again. Nora could eat a whole raw potato if she was hungry; which was worrying because last time she did that, I had to spend a whole night helping her exit out the potato from where the sun didn’t shine. Yawning as I hugged my knees one last time, I inched up and walked up the porch: towards warmth.
Opening the door handle, it’s cold frame frosted my fingers. “Nora” I called out.
Shutting the door firmly, I locked it cautiously, I had heard about the recent attacks and robberies in this area. Whistling Noras happy tune, a single bark came through. “Nora!” I yelled once again. This time she came barking down the stairs but with an agitated face. “Nora, what’s the matter?” I said as I rubbed her stomach and scratched her fur in the itchiest places I had grown to know of. Nora was a silvery greyish dog, most of her breed would hurt others, but Nora was as gentle as an innocent old lady. She had a heart of gold.
“It’s not Mr. Potato is it?” I whined. Nora jumped up and down towards the stairs. I hushed Nora by hugging her and kissing her on the forehead. Noras wild, electric blue eyes settled. I quivered as I edged my way up, why didn’t I lock the door before going out? Now that I thought of it, I did see a dodgy van parked a few metres away from the house. Why didn’t I think?
My sweaty palms slid their way up the stairs and into the room with my phone in. Nora following closely behind me, I hid Nora under the bed as I took uphold of my phone. In the next room, I could hear clothes being thrown out and objects being smashed. He would notice the Khaki clothes and badge, wouldn’t he? He would. I frantically dialled the emergency services as I stood against the door. I could hear his footsteps inching against the door. “Lieutenant Talia Hammons. Robbery and predicted assault. Dog hidden. Umm… Appletree house, beachside.”
Keeping on the call in the corner of the room, I took my camera as I placed at an angle where I could record the attack.
The door slammed against the wall as it opened. A man, dressed in combat clothes with armoury and gear, came running in and faced Lieutenant. “Who are you?” He ordered.
“Lieutenant Talia Hammons.” I adressed him orderly form, not quivering but standing taller. I had learnt this from war. You face death so that death doesn’t face you.
Clutched in his left hand was my ID, as he focused on pocketing it, I lunged at him, sprawling my arms around his waist and kicking his down-below. He toppled over in my direction and pressed me firmly to the ground. I took a few punches in my stomach and once on my face. I pulled out hair in handfuls, scratched, bit, kicked and head-butted.
I lay on the floor as I could hear the ringing of metal scraping against the floor that vibrated on the base of my body. No sooner did a golfing iron hit me in the head. I felt the pain and saw the second blow come for my abdomen. I immediately turned to the side as the blow missed and hit the floor. The force of the the floor left him tumbling backwards. I slowly walked forward but instantly, he pulled my leg and pulled out his knife. “You’re gonna get it from me!” He shouted as he plunged the knife into my leg, i hissed as the pain became numb. He dragged me by my hair, down the stairs and out onto the porch.
“She’s too fiesty, you finish her.” He says as the other man inches closer to check who I am. “Here, she’s in the Air Force or something.”
Inspecting the ID card, he put it next to my face as he compared it. “What did you do!” He shouted.
Did he know me?
“What? Past girlfriend? Great! Get revenge! And let’s go! I’m hungry.” He said with a hint of sarcasm.
“No bro. She’s part of the army. Lieutenant? I’m not leaving her. You can go on the run if you want but if she dies then, I’m not helping you!” He shouts.
Overhead, a sound could be heard as I slowed into dizziness. They were here for me, my crew were here. Smiling I chuckled as the man who stabbed me frantically screamed. The man in front put his hand on my pulse and simply kissed my cheek. He soothingly said, “I’ll get you justice.” But I was too wrapped up on the helicopter to hear him.
The helicopter's subdued green paint was enveloped in a cloud of sandy dust. The blades that beat the air had much the same effect as a small tornado on the loose ground cover. As it came lower I covered my ears, held my breath and closed my eyes until I heard the slowing of the blades but I could feel a strong body cover me like a shield.
As I regained consciousness, I opened my eyes. There was a constant ringing sound in my ears and my body ached. My head felt like it was being constantly punched at. This was taking too long. Even if the hospital was closer I couldn’t afford the care, who can these days?
I lifted my hands up to feel my head but instead smacks onto someone’s face. They have a stubble - probably a ‘he’. I twist around to see the man, the strange protective man. He just stared at her as she was inches away from kissing him. Lifting myself off of him, I walked over to the front, slowly stumbling and dragging my leg.
“Talia.” A voice says.
Stopping dead in my tracks, I breathtakingly turn around. “What?” I say.
“You need to sit down.” The man says, as I takes in his voice, I remember his voice from somewhere. My mind takes me back to when I was teaching the aircraft juniors.
“Do I know you from somewhere?” I say as I remember him. Staggering across, I seat myself in the opposite seat to him. “So? Does that question come with an answer or do I have to find it, Junior?”
“No Talia.” He says.
“Lieutenant to you. Only people I trust can say my name.” I say as my voice echoes in the aircraft.
Distant voices echo through, “Only we can.” And few murmurs of agreement. The man raises his eyebrow at me.
Craning my head around, I could see my crew lined up behind me in their seats. Chuckling, one person comes forward to hug her from behind.
“Oh, I’ve missed you.” I say. “How are you Kate?”
“Fine. How’s Nora? Still hates me, I’m wondering.” Says Kate.
“Who’s Nora?” Asks the man.
“My dog.” I answer, turning behind. “She’s fine and she misses you all.”
Turning around to the man, I ask him, “So am I gonna get the answer?”
“Yes Lieutenant.” Clearing his throat. “So after I left training camp, I became an undercover police officer.”
“Well, good on you. And I’m guessing the other man was a criminal and put back in prison?” I say..
His face changes as it becomes more harder, “No, he escaped.” He clears his throat once more.
“Something bothering you, Sebastian. Are my questions bothering you?” I tease but as I do, I put a hand on his arm. “Do you need water?”
“No, I’m fine Lieutenant.” He says as he touches my arm back.
Smiling, I chuckle. “Don’t call me Lieutenant. Call me Talia.”
I outstretch my arm and shake his hand.
“Thank you Talia.” He says as he chuckles slowly.
“How’s my Talia?” Asks a man from behind, a voice I recognise.
He comes upfront and hugs me. “I’m fine George! No, seriously. You have to stop hugging me like that.”
“Fine.” He sighs and kisses my forehead.
Sebastians face goes rigid. Was he jealous?
Clearing my throat, “Sebastian, meet my brother, George, the most ugliest, annoying person on the planet. George, meet Sebastian, my friend.”
George slaps my arm as he leans across to shake his hand. “Nice to meet you. And friend, already. It took my 6 years to be her friend, let alone brother… how did you… ooh. Love is in the air.”
Slapping his arm, Sebastian then realises.
Turning to him seriously, “George, where’s Nora?” My knees bob up and down as I look agitated. “George!” I then shout.
“She’s at the back. I’ll get her. Honestly.” He says.
I refuse to look froward but just keep on staring back at where she is.
“So Nora, she isn’t violent, is she?” Sebastian asks.
“She’s a Serbian Husky.” I say as I search his face. “She’s not rough. She was taken in by her owner and left beaten. Poor thing was so scared as a pup.”
“So you love her more than… me.” He says as I raise my eyebrows. “I mean’t your brother.”
“Right. And to answer you, you would both be equally special to me except I’d give her more food.” I say with a wink. “Don’t be embarrassed. I don’t mind, but turn it down when my brother is here.”
Suddenly a bark fills the aircraft. Heavy thudding echoes around the ground. Sebastian looks around in a fright. “Look, if you’re not good with dogs, I can take her around the back.” I say as I put my hand on his leg.
“No, it’s fine.” He says as he touches my hand. “Introduce me to her.”
“Fine, but if you want something to calm you down.” I take his hand and gently kiss it. We both smile for a few seconds until I walk up to Nora. “Nora. Yes I know girl. I know.” I scratch her fur and rub her belly as she hugs me. “Look I’ve got a friend to show you. But you need to tone it down.”
Picking her up, I carry her over to Sebastian. Sebastian suddenly calms down as I sit on the floor and pat down on the ground, “Come on. Fine, we’ll take you to her play area.”
I pull Sebastians hand into mine and smile. “Look, I get it. The minute you want to leave. You can. Just trust me.”
He nods as we walk towards her play area. Her room is small but is filled with pillows in one area and a carpet-like rug is laid down on the floor. Her toys are put into one box. Sitting down on the rug, Nora obediently places her paw out for Sebastian to shake.
Sebastian shakes her paw and sits in front of her. Nora sits in his lap and they immediately connect.
Sebastian rubs her belly, scratches her fur. “See you’re doing it the right way.” I say.
“She’s so beautiful, isn’t she?” He says as looks at her admiringly. “Oh, is she falling asleep?”
“Yes. Look at you.” I whisper. “The first time I had her, she hated me. She bit me, she would hate being next to me. But slowly we grew closer. And this all was thanks to Mr. Potato.”
“Mr. Potato?” He questions as I smile. For the first time, I’m truly happy.
“Let’s put her down, then I’ll tell you.” I say. Slowly and carefully, Sebastian picks her up and places her in her bed. I cover her with a quilt and kiss her nose. As I turn around, I drag my leg over to sit down.
“Your leg is going even worse.” He says concerned. “Are you going to be fine?”
“Yes, I’ll be fine. Don’t worry.” I look down as I speak. I knew what was going to happen next. I knew it but all I could do was wait.
“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t know he was going to hurt you. I thought no one was home, that’s what I got told.” He says.
“You didn’t know, it’s fine.” I say as I touch his cheek. “Mr. Potato. Oh he was trouble.”
“Tell me, I’m intrigued.” He says as I lie down. He lies down next to me and puts his arm under my head.
“So, Mr. Potato made me stay up all night. So basically, I left Nora in the kitchen for a second and when I came back, I had found out she had eaten a potato. So I spent my time helping her poop out Mr. Potato.” I laugh. Sebastian stares at me and brings his face closer and closer.
I bring my face close until we both just feel the spark but this is wrong and I know it. “I’m sorry for leading you on.”
“What?” He says, obviously hurt.
“I can’t.” I say.
“Why?” He asks as he inches closer.
“My husband died two years ago of cancer. I can’t let anyone close to me. I was just acting foolish.” I blurt out and regret after realising what I said.
“You’re joking right? You spend your time with me and just to lie and tell me your husband died. I can’t believe you.” He says as he digs an even bigger grave.
My eyes swell up as I feel the tears coming through. “What?” I say through a crooked voice. “You’re sick. A sick man. You disgust me.”
I stagger as I try to stand up. But this had to be the time, didn’t it. My leg is dead. “George!” I shout out.
“Let me help you.” He asks.
“No! Don’t you dare touch me. Don’t.” I shout.
Katie walks through, “So that’s where you’ve been. Oh.” She says until she sees me. “What’s the matter? Why are you crying? You never cry.”
She kneels up next to me, “Look it’s my leg, you need to help me get to George. Please.” I plead as I wipe my eyes.
“Okay. On three. One… two… three.” She pulls me up as I lean onto her. I walk with my weight on one leg.
“Thank you.” I say.
“No, don’t worry about it.” She replies as she hugs me at a side angle.
“Let me help you.” Sebastian says as he walks behind me. “Please.”
“No. Look Sebastian, I told you the truth. I never lie.” I say as my tears swell up again.
“Look, you’re making her cry. Just go and sit down.” Interrupts Kate. “I will not ask you twice.”
Finally, George walks through but comes stumbling forward when he sees me. “What happened?”
“My leg. It’s not moving. Please.” I say as he takes me in, in a bridal carry.
“Why are you crying? You’ve been hurt much more before but why are you crying? Was it him? Just tell me and watch what I do to him.” He says but more in a shout.
“No. It’s fine.” I say as I look once more at Sebastian but then dig my head into George’s shoulder.
I walk out of the room with my crutches. I need to get prosthetics. Prosthetics. Why did I feel useless? Because I can’t be a Lieutenant anymore. I walk back into the main area and walk towards Sebastian. His eyes lit up as he saw me walking towards him.
Why am I going to sit next to him? I change my tracks and instead sit in the section before his. I sit with my face facing the window and watch the clouds part each other. I close my eyes and tilt my head backwards. I won’t be able to fly this aircraft. I won’t be able to do anything anymore but just sit at home, wearing colourful clothes.
George’s voice breaks me apart from my visuals. “Did he talk about Frankie? Did he?” He asks as he kneels in front of me. “Tell me, please. I know you’re hurting. Please.”
I just nod my head as I feel myself break apart inside. I lean my head into his shoulder and just cry.
He lifts my head up and just kisses me on the forehead. He then walks behind me, “Here. I found it in his locker.”
A photograph of me and Frankie. Both posing in a kiss and a hug.
I slide across onto the floor. My eyes drip with tears. My walls, the walls that hold me up, make me strong just... collapse. Moment by moment, they fall. Salty drops fall from my chin, drenching my shirt. Perhaps these tears will help wash the blood out. I press my head against the seat… baby blue, so innocent... I am anything but innocent. I'm trembling. I can't-can't stop. Even as I press my hand against the seat, it shakes, it trembles. It's raw, everything, raw tears, raw emotions. I can't stop... I can't stop. Why can I not stop crying?
She peered over to see where the moans came from. “George! Leave him. Leave him, please.” I cry out. “Please.”
Sebastian isn’t hurt or anything, but he just took in a few punches in the stomach. He stares at me as he notices me crying.
I close my eyes as I let my tears come out. I squeeze them tight.
Someone wraps an arm around my shoulders and pulls me close, gently rubbing my arm. He had a woody, fiery scent as I dig my face into his shoulders. Despite the heaviness in my stomach, it fluttered at the feeling of his body being pressed against me. I sunk into the warmth of his side, appreciative of the simple gesture.