Chapter 18 - It's Yours

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Mia dreamt of black sanded beaches beneath a dark blue sky that morning. It was, in fact, morning. She had fallen asleep right before the clock struck five, and it was long after Richard had given up his own post. He thought that he would be able to keep her company until she dozed off, but he was too predictable. He chose to rest in a lounge chair across from her, as if he was her bodyguard, staying alert for as long as possible. But Mia had watched his eyes shut at a snail's pace, as if they were stage curtains drawn. She couldn't blame him; the day had been insufferably long and weary, and even the strongest of wills needed their breaks.

Still, Mia had managed to dream.

Black sanded beaches, a dark blue sky. A horizon that went on infinitely, and gusts of wind that made her body sway to and fro. She didn't know what she was wearing; she felt naked. The hairs on her skin stood up, and her fingertips were turning white. There was no one else around in sight, but there was a wall of trees, trees that did not belong on that particular beach. Trees that did not belong anywhere within miles. They were too tall, too stout. The leaves were small but plentiful, and they danced to the breeze.

"At least you're happy," Mia heard herself say. She didn't feel her lips move, but she had heard her own voice, and it was then that she realized how everything was eerie and unnatural; that there was something or someone playing tricks on her. The feeling only heightened when she spotted a woodpecker in the distance, perched on a tree branch. Mia neared it; the black sand was chilly, almost glacial, beneath her soles, and she sunk into it with each step.

Knock–knock–knock.

Mia wasn't sure if that was how a tree trunk was supposed to sound. It seemed too hollow, and the noise just kept getting louder and louder, very quickly. The bird hammered its beak back into the bark rapidly.

Knock–knock–Ri-argh!

"Dear god," Mia heard herself say again. "It fucking speaks."

Rih-ad! Ri-ard!

It didn't sound like a parrot, nor a parakeet. It didn't even sound like a lousy cartoon. It sounded female, Mia decided, and the voice was overwhelming, far too passionate for such a tiny creature. But there was something about it, something strange.

The bird was calling her, summoning her forward. It didn't speak her name, but Mia was drawn to it. She found herself inching closer, and closer. She was intrigued. One step, two, three, four, five, until...

Richard!

Mia awoke with goosebumps on her legs and arms. The blanket had fallen off of her body, onto the floor, and the vents that centralized the suite were pointed downward, just a few degrees away from what felt like freezing point.

The woodpecker spoke again.

"Richard, please wake up!"

The muffled sound of a frantic young woman rung through Mia's ears as heavy knocks demonstrated against the front door. The bell buzzed as well, far too many times than what Mia deemed necessary, and it took a few moments for her to comprehend that someone was waiting for an answer; a very urgent one, she'd find.

Mia jogged to the door and opened it, forgetting to check who it was beforehand. Kate stood in front of her with a red suitcase near her feet. Almost immediately, she noticed Richard's clothes on Mia's body. Her eyes dropped to the floor, slightly embarrassed to have walked in on such intimacy.

"Good morning... oh!" she said, resisting a giggle. "Sorry, I didn't mean to intrude."

Mia raised an eyebrow and followed her sly gaze that hopped from one angle to the next: a quick look at her thighs hidden beneath the boxers, a glimpse at her bed hair that ended just below the collar of Richard's oversized shirt. A bra was also evidently absent, and even the sleeves were folded unevenly. Her appearance spoke for itself.

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