Thirty-Five - Ira

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"Slow down, Eva!" Nate pleaded in between my cussing.

I furiously strode from my wardrobe to my bed, where my duffel bag was already getting too full. I shoved another wad of money into the bag, but it bounced back a little against my jacket. There was no way that I could zip up the bag like that. "Fucking fuck!"

"Eva, are you okay? What's going on?"

"Do I look okay?" I snapped, feeling a sliver apologetic but I couldn't snap out of my stress. Tossing the jacket onto the floor, I shoved the money deep into the bag. "Nate, it's best that you don't know anything. I'm fucking serious. I hate being a shit friend like this as much as you do, but—"

"But what?" Our eyes met, and it took my every nerve not to break down. I sank into my bed and leaned my elbows on my knees, my long hair still damp and stinking of chlorine. I shouldn't have been so sentimental with my name. Of course they were going to find me if I was called Eva Jason.

"I... need to go overseas," I said after a long moment. "I don't know when I'll be back, or even if I'll be back."

"Is everything—" Nate began, but stopped when I jumped off the bed and opened the wardrobe door to my safe. I handed him my briefcase.

"Here, this is my apology. I really am sorry. Feel free to get rid of my stuff, sell it, whatever." I took his arm and hooked the briefcase on his hand. Turning back to my messy bed, I sighed and zipped up my bag. "But keep that emergency bag by the balcony. If something goes wrong, it'll be useful to you, too."

"Eva—"

"You've been a great friend, Nate." I slung the bag over my shoulder and gave him a tight hug. He hugged me back, confused, but I carried on. "I wish I could let you know everything, but trust me, you don't want to know. It's been really nice getting to know you. Hope we can meet again some time."

I walked out the door despite Nate's protests and hurried to the stairs before he could decide to follow me. I hailed a cab at the end of the street, leaving my car where it was in case Celestia had already worked it out. When I got to the airport, I bought the next ticket to Mexico City. Opening up one of my spare passports, I began filling out the departure card with my new name.

"Hello, Clare Wiley," I muttered to myself. "Sucks to be you, doesn't it?"

♟♙♟♙

It took hours by bus to get to my destination – a long time to think about what happened. Celestia wasn't the friend I made on Dell Island; she hadn't been for a long time. "Nita is Liana's protege," Stuart had told me when I lay crying, unable to move as a feverish infection numbed me. I'd just found out that Jaysen hadn't made it. "On the surface, she's a nice doctor, but that makes you easy to manipulate."

Celestia was, regrettably, the exact type of person to fall for that plot – too trusting, too naive. I still gritted my teeth when I remembered that I'd also fallen for Celestia's silence when I tried to include her in our escape. I'd thought she was tortured, but she must have already been on their side.

In a way, it was my fault. I could bet with certainty that Celestia picked her side when she saw my coverup kiss with Jaysen. That made Jaysen's death mostly my fault, but I ignored that truth. The mosquitoes on the bus were the perfect distraction, as was the noisy group at the front. Out of practice for my Spanish, I could pick out a few words and piece the conversation together, badly. Something about football.

By the time I stepped off the bus, I was on the verge of melting. My cargo pants stuck to my legs, and my black tank top was soaked with sweat. I walked down the dusty road with a large map in my hands. Along the way, I saw a hardware store and bought a pair of heavy-duty scissors. I chopped most of my hair off in the first public toilet I could find. Even then, my hair was damp and sticking to my scalp when I saw the open workshop I had been looking for. The man who lived there gave me a puzzled look when he saw me.

"Te conozco." He squinted at me against the blazing sun. There was recognition in his eyes, but also confusion.

"Miguel," I greeted him, desperately looking inside my head for broken Spanish. "Ira. Remember?" I showed him the scar on my shoulder that I'd given up trying to hide in the heat.

Miguel had been there with me through it all – the infection, the existential crisis, the fun. His eyes widened, his tanned shoulders relaxed, and he flashed me a toothy grin. "Ah, Ira! Welcome!" Miguel gestured for me to follow, and opened the back door which led to his house. He hugged me tightly once we were inside.

"Gracias." I said and hugged him back. Miguel had become like family. His workshop was just as messy as when I left a year ago – tools where you least expected them, unfinished jobs piled up on the workbench. He let Stuart, Linkin and I stay upstairs, provided that we helped him with his business. They didn't seem to be here now.

"They gone away," Miguel said in a mix of Spanish and English. "I don't know where. I haven't heard from them. You?"

I shook my head and shook it again when he offered me a seat. "Not staying long," I said. The foreign words came back slowly, and I was just glad that my brain didn't add Russian to the mix. "Just looking for something they left. A piece of papel? They gave it to you?"

He paused to think for a few seconds before his dark brown eyes lit up and his wrinkled face twisted in a smile. "Yes!" he said, before saying something along the lines of, "Linkin gave me something when they left."

Humming, Miguel walked over to his cluttered shelf and began to look through the books, resting a finger on each spine before moving forward. He took out a small book with a faded hardcover and flipped to the middle, taking out a small piece of paper.

"Aha!" With that, he handed it to me. Scribbled on it was a Mexican mobile number. "You need telephone?"

"No, thanks," I said, putting the paper in my pocket. "I'm fine. I need to head out for a bit, but I'll come back."

"See you soon!" Miguel said in a heavily accented English. I smiled and waved at him until I was out the door, then sprinted to a small shop a few blocks away. After a few attempts, I successfully asked for the phone and handed the shop owner a few coins in gratitude. It was the only way I knew how to protect the man who'd housed us for months and checked on me like a parent until my shoulder got better.

I punched out the number in a hurry and put the phone to my ear. I could hear the roar of my circulation as the connecting tone sounded. It was hard leaving Linkin and Stuart without saying goodbye, but reconnecting was starting to feel much harder. My whole body trembled.

"Doctor Neil Stewart's psychiatry office, how may I help you?" a practiced female voice spoke. I had to cover the phone to laugh. Neil Stewart?

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