Captivity by Sarah Biglow and Molly Zenk

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"Kegan?" I dropped my pretense of pretending to be glamoured. I ran past Douglas and threw my arms around Kegan. He continued to stand stiffly with his hands to his side. Ok, not the reaction I expected. Wasn't he happy to see me? Maybe he blamed me for not coming to rescue him sooner. I pulled back and searched his blank face.

"What's wrong?" I asked. "I've been searching for you for three years, I swear. I never gave up. No matter how many dead ends I hit, I kept looking." Tears sprung to my eyes when he continued to stare over my shoulder. He seemed more interested in the door than me. "I kept looking. I swear."

"He doesn't remember you, Lorelei."

Douglas – all bravado no heart Douglas – sounded sympathetic before peeling my arms from Kegan. Douglas held me against himself with one arm across my chest in case I made a run for Kegan again. I didn't bother to struggle or tell him to move his arm or lose it. All I could think of was the blankness in Kegan's eyes. Did he really not remember me at all?

"You of all creatures should know how it works with Phoenixes," Douglas continued. "Each new life means he forgets his old one. You're part of his old life, m'eudail."

I sagged against Douglas. "But we...but we talked about it before. Kegan said he'd always remember me, no matter what." I watched Kegan shift from foot to foot. He looked scared, broken, and confused. Is that what three years of captivity did to him?

"I...I have one memory of your face," Kegan offered. "That is all. I'm sorry. For your sake, I wish it were more."

"Nothing? Nothing at all?" My knees buckled. I would have fallen if Douglas didn't still have a hold of me.

"I'm sorry," Aiden repeated. "Nothing at all."

* * *

I don't remember losing consciousness. I do remember waking up on a mattress on the floor somewhere away from the main room of wherever Douglas lead me to. I sat up, rubbing my head.

"I'm sorry. I thought I should stay with you. I felt it was my duty."

I turned to my right at the sound of Kegan's voice. "I can take care of myself."

He smiled. It was the same smile that still haunted my dreams, but now seemed to belong to a stranger. "I am sure you can. I merely wished to sit with you. That is all."

"Why?" I felt like I should cover up, even though I was fully clothed. I didn't want this stranger in Kegan's body looking at me.

He cocked his head to the side, the gesture looking more bird-like than human. "You were important to him. I know that, even if I don't remember being him. I'm Aiden, by the way. That's my name now."

I couldn't help the rueful laugh that escaped my lips. "That's what your owner called you. What name would you pick for yourself?"

"Aiden," he said. "You say my owner picked it, but I picked it for myself when I was reborn. It is who I am now. Aiden."

I leaned forward on the bed, searching his face for any spark of recognition of his life before as Kegan. Still nothing. "Is that what happened when they took you from me?" I asked. "Did they make you rise from the ashes to ensure you'd forget?"

He was silent as he turned the question over in his mind. "I believe so. All I remember is me, not him."

"Kegan." I lifted my chin, hoping it didn't betray my emotions by shaking. "His name is Kegan."

"Was Kegan," the stranger in Kegan's body corrected. "Again, I am sorry for your loss. That's what it feels like, doesn't it? A loss of someone you used to know?"

"A loss of someone I used to love." I scrubbed at my damp eyes. "Ug. It feels like the last three years of my life and career have been a waste. I was chasing a ghost this whole time, wasn't I? Someone who I never was going to find."

"I'm sorry." He spread his hands, palm-side up, in front of him. "I wish I had a better answer for you, but I do not. I do have one memory of his. It's of you. Your hair is loose, falling around your shoulder and down your back in waves. You are wearing a white, flowing gown with flowers in your hair. You smile at him. Your happiness makes him feel the same way. I'm sorry. I wish I could give you more."

"So part of me stuck with you, even through the burning?"

He nodded. "He didn't want to let you go. Of that, I am certain."

"But you're not him?" I wanted to hear him say it one more time. Maybe if I heard it one more time, I might actually believe it.

"No," he said. "I am me. I wish I could give you the answer you wish for."

I scrubbed at my eyes again. "Yeah? Looks likeI'm gonna have to come up with different wishes."

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