Phantom Limb

Chapter 8

Story by Ray

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Some time passed. Winter came to a close, and seeing the snow melt away gave me nothing but satisfaction. It wasn’t even close to summer yet, but the worst of it was ending. I’d made it through the cold.

When I got back to the dorm one day, Bradley was staring out of the window. It was rare to see him doing anything other than watching TV or staring blankly at his homework. So rare that I was almost concerned to see him doing anything else.

He snapped out of his daze as I closed the door behind me. “Jesus, don’t sneak up on me like that. But hey, man, I am super glad you’re back, you don’t even know.”

“Did something happen while I was gone?”

“Yeah. So uh, this chick came by in a suit, and I was freaking the fuck out, because I thought she was the DEA or some shit, and I’d just got back from lighting up at a friend’s place, and I hadn’t come down all the way quite yet, so I’m all worried that I’m going to get arrested and kicked out of college and my life will be ruined, all because of the dumbest law ever, right? But it turns out she was looking for you.”

“Wait, are you sure?”

“She knew your name and where you’re from, so yeah, I think she was.”

“Who was she? What did she want?” I asked. I was drawing a blank as to who would ever be looking for me.

“Eva Something, I think.”

“Eva Mortensen?

“Yeah, that’s it, for sure! She asked me if I’d seen you with anyone unusual, and I was a little too buzzed to deal with the concept of a usual person, and I’m pretty sure she knew. But anyways, she said to tell you that she wanted to talk to you.”

“Did she say if she’d be back?”

“She never left. She’s been sitting there for twenty minutes,” he explained, pointing to the window.

I looked out with him, and just as he said, there was a woman in a suit sitting on a bench across the street. It was the same Eva who I’d talked to almost a year ago.

“Hey, where are you going?” Bradley asked as I turned back towards the door.

“I’m going to talk to her.”

“Yeah okay, I get that, but what’s the plan?”

“Bradley, she’s not with the DEA,” I assured him, and he relaxed. “She is an FBI agent though,” I added with a smirk.

Bradley stood up and put a hand to his head, saying, “Come on man, don’t do that shit to me! Now I don’t know whether or not you’re even telling the truth. Hey, wait, before you go: wanna get our own apartment next year?”

“Can we talk about this literally any other time?” I asked. Eva showing up might not have meant anything at all, but in case it did, I wanted to find out as soon as possible.

“Yeah, we can talk about it whenever, but I really think that living off campus would be better for both of us. Anyways, DEA or not, if she comes back up here then give me a signal. I don’t wanna flush my stash, but I’d rather do that than have her find it.”

“Sure Bradley, I’ll give you a signal,” I said, rolling my eyes while my back was turned.

As I rode the elevator back down to the first floor, I had a hope. It was a complete minefield of flawed logic, but it was still a hope. I hoped that Eva was there to say that she’d caught someone. That after nearly a year of searching, she’d tracked down Foxboro’s most infamous outlaw.

I jumped when the elevator doors opened to reveal Adam.

“Hey, you okay?” he asked, not putting up much of an effort to cover his amusement.

“Yeah, just thinking about something.”

“Well hey, I came to ask—”

“Can it wait for just a minute? You can go wait in my room with Bradley if you want, but I really have to go take care of something.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I am phenomenal, but really, I have to go take care of this.”

I walked past Adam. I didn’t mean to ignore him like that, but I saw him almost every day. I hadn’t seen Eva in almost a year, and I never quite expected to see her again. Yet, when I stepped outside, there she was. She stood up when I crossed the street, and she offered her hand when I crossed her path.

As we shook hands, she observed, “Looks like you’re doing a lot better than you were the last time we met.”

“You have no idea,” I told her. She sat back down, and I did the same. Trying to downplay my excitement, I started by asking her something I couldn’t have cared about less. “Where’s Roman?”

“Classified,” she responded.

“Oh, I—”

Eva cracked up. “I’m just messing with you; Roman doesn’t do anything nearly interesting enough to be classified. He left the FBI a month ago to join the secret service. Last I heard the president is still alive, so I guess he’s doing alright.”

I commented on the president’s last line of defense being the worst line of company. She laughed. It made me think that the last time we’d met, the good federal agent bad federal agent thing wasn’t an act. She still fit the role just fine.

“So, you know I’m not just here for a friendly visit,” she said, and I nodded. She continued by asking, “Have you heard from Drake Reddick since he left Foxboro last year?”

I shook my head. “I wish I could tell you I did, but I haven’t heard anything at all.”

“Well that’s the main reason I’m here: to ask if you’ve seen him. The other reason is to keep you updated on the situation, in case you happen to see him after I leave.”

All I did on the outside was give Eva another solemn nod. On the inside I might as well have been doing cartwheels up and down the street—there was a chance I would see him again! An actual fucking chance!

I worked at containing myself as she explained, “To tell you the truth, this case has been abandoned for quite a while. But, last week, we received various reports of someone in Nevada who, apparently, looked just like an old friend of yours. We haven’t found anything conclusive: no video, no accounts from actual authorities, not even a consistent location. But there were enough reports to give us a reason to be curious. That’s really all we know at this point.”

“Nothing else?” I asked. Carefully though; any more, and I would come off as a little too curious.

“Nothing that isn’t classified. And I’m sorry, but this time it actually is classified,” she said as she stood up. I stood with her, this time trying to conceal disappointment. “Anyways, thank you for your time.”

“Yeah, no problem, thank you for yours.”

We began to go our separate ways, but after a couple of steps, Eva turned back towards me. “Oh, just one more thing—you’re a better liar than you realize. Politics should suit you just fine.”

And then I wondered how much she knew. About me, and everything I was going through. About Drake, and where he might be. Hell, whether or not he might be alive. But I knew I had to let it go. The last year of my life had proven that worrying over things didn’t stop them from sucking.

…Still, I wondered.

Back in my room, Adam and Bradley had plenty of questions. They both sounded concerned, even if Bradley’s concerns were more focused on the bag of weed under his dresser. I insisted to both of them that it was nothing serious, and that she was just checking in before closing the case for good. I’m not even sure why I lied. It just felt easier that way.

“Anyways,” I said, trying to push past the subject. “You said you wanted to ask me something?”

“Oh, yeah, Bradley and I were just talking about it. Turns out we have similar timing. Terrible timing, as he tells me, but still. I just came by to ask if you want to get an apartment next year. I sorta like the idea of having a place that’s more to ourselves.”

I shrugged. “Yeah, why not? I bet the three of us could find a place.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” Bradley said. Then with a snicker he added, “But just to warn you man, Regis throws raging parties basically every night. It’s just a never ending stream of sex and drugs.”

“Oh I’m sure,” Adam said. He looked off to the side when he continued, “But yeah, the three of us, that’s cool I guess.”

Throughout the week, we went around Sienna looking for somewhere to spend the next year. Adam said he’d had a place in mind, but the only apartments they had left were two bedrooms, not three. Bradley brought up that he wouldn’t mind sharing a room with me like he already was, but Adam told him to forget about it. I wasn’t oblivious. I understood why Adam was upset that Bradley was moving in with us. Like lying about what happened with Eva though, ignoring Adam’s hints just felt easier.

Bradley was right about Sienna; it kinda sucked. After a week of searching, it seemed that Adam’s first pick of apartments really were the only ones that were decently priced, decently untrashed, and decently close to campus.

Adam and I were at his dorm when he said it. “Look, Pepperdale is clearly our best option. I think we can agree on that. No matter which way we split up the rooms, it’s still better than any of those other places.”

“I agree,” I told him. “But I have a pretty good idea of who you’d want to share a room with, and I have a pretty good idea of why.”

“It wasn’t supposed to be like that,” Adam insisted. “When I first looked at those apartments, we were each going to get our own space. But yes, now that Bradley’s moving in with us too, I’d rather share a room with you.”

“And I’d rather not,” I told him. “You’re a great friend, but I told you, I’m not looking for anything more than friendship.”

“Tell you what,” Adam said, and he reached under his bed. A moment later, he held a chess board. “I’ll play you for it. Winner gets to pick the rooms. It doesn’t have to mean anything more than friendship.”

Against my better judgment, I agreed. The two of us had been playing the game quite a bit, and even if he won more often, I felt that I was getting better. The stakes were higher than usual, but still, if it would make him drop the subject then I would be glad to give it a try.

When we started, I noticed that he didn’t attack right away. For the first few moves, he remained on his side of the board. I kept an eye on him, but even when I left an opening, he didn’t advance.

“So I really don’t know much about Bradley,” Adam said. “What’s he like as a roommate? What’s he all about?”

“He’s double majoring in mathematics and art, believe it or not. He says he got so high once that he saw the fourth dimension, so he’s taking math classes to be able to comprehend what he saw, and art classes so he can try to convey the experience to others.”

“Does he really think he’ll be able to do all that?”

“He doesn’t seem very attentive, but he can be deceptively smart, so who knows? As a roommate though, he’s impossible to complain about. It’s your move.”

“I know,” Adam said, staring at his pieces. He moved a knight forward, paused, and then moved it back. He settled on moving another pawn forward—the forth one in four turns. “Yeah, Bradley seems like an alright guy. I was just wondering.”

I was satisfied with my own arrangement, and growing restless for him to finish his. Straying from my typical fashion, I moved a bishop straight past his pawns and claimed a rook from his back row.

“So be honest; why do you want us to share a room?”

“You don’t have to remind me to be honest. It’s because I like you. I think I’ve been pretty upfront about that.”

“And I’ve been pretty upfront with the fact that I’m just not interested.”

“Yeah, you have,” Adam said, moving another pawn. He stood up and walked over to his mini fridge, opened the door, and stared inside. “Want anything?”

I heard him, but I didn’t answer at first. I was too focused on something else. Despite the fact that Adam had yet to move forward, he still hadn’t defended his king; he’d trapped it. The only problem was that I hadn’t been moving forward much either, so even if he was setting himself up, I wasn’t in a position to take advantage of it.

“Regis? Anything?”

I moved my knight to the opposite end of the board, where it sat ready to block his king’s few escape options. Then I moved my queen forward, so it was poised to finish the trap in the following turn.

“No thanks, I’m good.”

“Suit yourself,” Adam said, walking back to the board. My heart beat faster as he approached, because I knew he would notice. He had to. He was too good at the game to miss something so obvious. When he got back to the board, he barely even glanced at the pieces.

He tipped over his king.

“Good game, but I sort of realized how childish this is getting. I don’t want to force you into anything. You can go ahead and pick the rooms.”

“You’re serious right now,” I said. In my head it had been a question, but out loud, it sounded more like pointing out the obvious.

“Yeah, I am.”

“Well, thanks, and good game to you too. I should go get ready for my next class, but really, thank you.”

We said our goodbyes, and I stepped out of his room. I only made it to the stairwell before I had to stand still for a minute. There was this feeling somewhere in my chest. It was just a light tingle, but it drove me crazy. I’d cheated. I’d cheated, and he never would have noticed. It was dishonest, it was uncomfortable, it was sickening, it was wonderful—it was wonderful. As I leaned against a railing, ready to vomit over the edge, there was something else to the uneasy feeling; there was a smile, just crossing the corners of my lips. I stood there in the stairwell, giggling. I was a liar, and it felt wonderful.

I turned around and marched back to Adam’s door. He opened it after a few frantic knocks, but he wasn’t opening it fast enough, and I nearly knocked him over as I pushed through the doorway. Before he could say a thing, I took both sides of his head in my hands and pulled him into a kiss.

I’m not sure what I was thinking. It didn’t even feel like I was thinking. After all, I would never be the one to kiss him—not even a year had passed since I’d renounced love forever. But I had to admit that I felt something for Adam. It wasn’t love, not at all. Not quite, anyways. But it was something. Apparently it was enough.

Adam pulled away to collect himself for a second. With a laugh, he said, “How ‘bout a little warning before you make my fantasies come true, goddamn.”

I clung to him, still barely feeling like myself. “You and me. We’re sharing a room next year.”

And without warning him, I leaned forward and gave him another kiss.

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