"What you got there?"
Lee nearly put the hobby knife she was using through the meat of her hand when she jumped at the sudden voice behind her. Jesus, Em! What the hell?
"I could ask you the same thing," the blind woman snorted, taking a seat in a beanbag next to the workbench Lee was currently crouched over. Her groan was a pleasant one as she let the beans support her tired body. "I've been Tapping you for an hour. You missed Market day. Roger stole all your Frosted Flakes."
Oh, come on! Lee whined, looking around at the pipes as though just noticing them. Really?
"Snooze you loose. Name of the game down here. Can't help it you were slow on the take. So, what's got you by the pubes this time? You usually don't ignore Market Day unless you're buried in something important."
New project, she muttered, accepting her abysmal loss, Roger was always gunning for the good cereal, and turning back to her work. Out of her periphery, Lee watched Em crane her neck until she could see the tabletop, tapping the handle of her cane against the metal as she did.
"Looks small." She wrinkled her nose as if that could help focus her eyes. "Is that a tiny music box?"
Lee protectively hunched around the pieces of particle board like a mama bird protecting chicks. I hate that you can do that.
"What? That I can put Dare Devil to shame? Or that my vision works like your vocals?" Em laughed, settling back with a knowing smirk.
It was true. She might have been deemed medically blind, but Emilia had learned long ago her sight hadn't been completely robbed from her. She still possessed ways to see, similar to how bats navigated through caves. Any level of sound painted a picture for her－hence why her cane was aluminum and not fiberglass. Made tapping and navigation easier.
It's nothing. Just something new to work on, Lee said, feeling strangely defensive about her secret treasure. This wasn't just any project. This was something special. Something personal.
"Something Alex give you last night in the Echoes?"
Lee did a marvelous impression of an opossum being caught in a flashlight beam. Why would you —
"Goliath told me."
That gossipy little bitch! Well, shit, there was no use hiding this now. When did he talk to you?
He never talks to anyone! Lee thought she knew the giant better. Goliath wasn't the conversational type. With Lee, yes, he uttered a few syllables every so many weeks, but Em? Lee wasn't aware the two were on speaking terms.
"So when were you going to spill you've been secretly seeing your Topside friend?"
Never, Lee wanted to say, but she kept the words and the memory soaked in fire-warmed feelings to herself even under Em's scrutiny, careful not to reveal more than she wanted her aunt to know. Internally, however, Lee was free to let the battle armored butterflies rage inside her chest cavity.
Last night, she walked Alex back home. Not just to the Underground entrance near her apartment but actually to her building's front door. It was dark, and her hood remained high. No one saw the two embrace, holding one another longer than was platonically necessary. It was her secret to keep and cherish. As was the gift Alex pressed into her hands and what came after.
"I wanted to give you this," she said, and Lee was almost certain Alex's cheeks had been burning with the same fire turning her ears red. "It's a thank you for...well, for really everything. I know you said I didn't have to repay you or your family for what you did for me, but I feel I should. I hope you don't mind?"
YOU ARE READING
Journalist Alexandra Bailey never believed she'd become another tragic statistic ripe for the front pages. Abducted off the street. Beaten bloody. Left for dead in the unforgiving winter. The article wrote itself. And her crime? Not even she knew, b...