A Safe Location . . .

Miss Parker moaned in a bed that she woke up and found herself strapped into. She could have got out, if Sydney wasn’t watching her right then. He must have been watching her carefully. She was the star, and not escaping the show. Still, a part of her didn’t know if she even wanted to attempt it. If she did, what would happen to Sydney? Jarod said Hades would kill him. Not only that. The Centre. Sydney seemed sure they did something to her.

“Delaware,” Sydney said. “Does that have meaning to you?”

“Of course,” she said. “Blue Cove, it’s where The Centre . . . “ Wait. “The Centre’s in Louisiana. But. Blue Cove.” She almost even said it.

“It’s working, that’s good,” Sydney said. “The Centre is not in Louisiana. It was in Blue Cove, Delaware, until it blew up.” He pulled something out of his pocket and put it in her hands. A rosary. “Believe, and you can get through this.”

She opened and closed her eyes, her brain going every which way. Different memories started to interfere. “Nothing happened this year at all at The Centre. It’s been boring, vague, nothing except losing Debbie. Which hurt. That’s . . . what is that?” She closed her eyes, seeing something. A plane. A hotel. Small bassinets. Gemini, slightly older. Debbie laughing. “Let me up.” It felt like her mind was under attack! “Let me up, let me go, Sydney!”

“I know it’s not easy, but your mind will clear,” Sydney said. “You must endure this.”

“Why?!”

“For Onyssius. For your Little Angel.”

Onyssius. Jarod’s vengeance. His justice. Revenge. No, it wasn’t. It was something else. Someone else.

Jarod! Screaming. She was screaming his name. She wanted him there, somewhere, but he wasn’t there. Where had she been? Where was he? Hades. Hades was there, talking. Blurry but indicating her stomach which was large. Too large. Pregnant. Pregnant? “I have kids? I have kids?!” How old were these memories?! Did The Centre take her children away from her for years, hoping she’d never find him like her mother?!

“Easy, they are fine, and still alright,” he said, trying to cut through her state. “It’s only been three months. A whole month, The Centre was doing this to you. Changing you. Holding you so you couldn’t remember, but Jarod didn’t give up! He is bringing you back to where you belong.”

Where I belong? “Where do I belong?”

“With your babies.”

My babies. The Centre used me for babies? Why? How? Her head moved back and forth, and she felt Sydney rub the tears out of her eyes. Jarod is bringing me to babies I didn’t even know I had? Of course. Just like he lost his mother. He wasn’t doing it for her. He was rescuing her for them. To have their mother back.

“It’ll be alright. You’ll get there.” Sydney patted her hand and left out the door. He saw Jarod practically pacing back and forth. “She’s awake now and getting closer. She believes now that she has been living in the wrong home, and she knows that she had her babies, but she doesn’t really remember them yet. How is Broots doing?” Sydney asked.

“Ready for you,” Jarod said, eager to switch now that Miss Parker was up and getting closer. He moved over toward Miss Parker as Sydney headed toward Broots. “Miss Parker?”

“I have children?” Her eyes were unfocused, depressed, and so lost.

“Yes,” he said. “Do you remember them?”

“Sydney said it wasn’t long ago.”

“No, no you haven’t lost much time with them, don’t worry. I moved as fast as I could.” Jarod said, scooting closer. “Three months. I swear, they are okay.”

“Where are they? I want to see them,” she demanded.

Jarod smiled. “I know you do. Soon. We’ll see them soon.”

“We’ll see them soon? Why are you saying we’ll?” she asked.

“Easy. Let the memories flow, Miss Parker. It’ll be okay. I’ll be here.”

“Why do you keep doing that?” Miss Parker asked. “Why do you keep trying to comfort me so much?”

“Just let yourself remember. Then, you’ll know.” He scooted back away and waited in his chair. It was almost over. For her and Broots.

The relapse wasn’t nearly as easy as it was on Jarod. Although he had a few sketchy moments, it was nothing compared to them. Since all the memory restoration was in the short term of a year, it hit them harder. She was sweating profusely, complaining about headaches, and weeping between but not letting him get close yet.

Not yet. Then.

It all stopped. She stayed quietly in the chair. Patiently. Jarod watched her carefully. “How are you?”

“Drinking coffee, no gun, just morning. How could I be so stupid?” She questioned.

There it was. Jarod went over and let her loose, but she didn’t move. “I had no idea how he found you. I still don’t. He must have somehow put something on me, and just waited for the right moment. It wasn’t your fault. The same thing would have happened if he pulled it in the middle of the night. You couldn’t always be prepared.”

She didn’t reply. “Wait. Hades?”

“Taken care of. From something he won’t be able to recover from.”

“Not good enough. Give me my gun, Jarod.”

“He doesn’t need to die,” Jarod assured her.

“He stole me,” she said through clenched teeth. “He stole me from my children, and stole my own mind, throwing me into-!“

“His fate might be worse than death,” Jarod said to her. “I had to test something. He can’t concentrate anymore. On anything. He’ll need care to live for the rest of his life.”

Miss Parker slowly got up. “How’d you do that?”

“Your momma’s recipe books. Same way I helped that.” He gestured to her head. “It’s good to see you without a gun trained on me.”

She didn’t reply quickly at first. “Devil’s cage.”

“Yeah,” Jarod said. “We all got it wrong. It wasn’t Africa. It was a new Centre, and you just escaped it.” And there was no way she would be entering Jarod Angel’s heaven either.

————–

“I wonder what ice cream is, I wonder what milk is, how do cows, why is grass, perhaps the ground, hard.”

“Jarod Hades.”

Hades turned around. “Bald like Mister Clean, seventies commercials are cool, why were old TV’s fuzzed up, why call that noise white?”

“Hm.” Mister Raines held the gun with a silencer to Hades head and shot it. Afterwards, he grabbed a knife. “Death was probably better anyhow.” He sighed and grabbed his arm. “Oh, how the mighty have fallen.” He used to be running The Centre, and now he was Adama’s lacky. “Well. Better get to tanning.”

——————-

“Okay, put it all out, nice and neat,” Margaret said as she put out the decorations for the Welcome Back party. Well, perhaps it wasn’t a welcome back to the particular house they were renting, but having Miss Parker and Broots back, safe and sound. It was more than enough.

“Do you need help with the streamers?” Gemini asked Debbie.

“No, I got them.” Her smile was radiant. “I bet dad will love them.”

“Debbie?”

Debbie turned around and saw her dad. She ran to him almost as fast as he ran to her.

“Debbie!” Broots clung her to him so tighly. “Oh, Debbie! Oh goodness. You’re alive. Your safe and you’re alive.” He kissed her on her forehead and held her even tighter.

Debbie didn’t seem to mind.

“You all missed someone.” Jarod came over to his mom. “She used the opportunity of Broots to bypass you.” He smiled. “She’s going after the kids. Sorry.”

“Never you mind. She just wants to see her children. We’ll see her soon.” Margaret patted his arm. Oh, her son hadn’t looked that happy in months. It was almost over. After all those years, it was almost over. “Did you explain to her about the Distraction?”

“Soon. I just want her to relax and enjoy her time with Onyssius and Miss A. again,” Jarod said. He moved away from the scene, knowing that he’d have to talk to Broots about Debbie soon, but he wanted to reach Miss Parker first.

Sure enough, she found their room. He was quiet as he slowly opened the door.

“Never, never, never. No more coffee. No drinking. I’ll carry a gun around me all the time, even in bed. Not next to the bed, even in the bed,” Miss Parker swore to them. Oh, they had already grown up so much without her. She picked up Onyssius. His hair was growing in beautifully, and so was her daughters. She kissed his temple and held him tenderly.

It had been a very long time since The Centre brought her into a place, emotionally, that she couldn’t handle. She dealt with it. Always. Escaping or facing it onward, she dealt with it all. But, they literally reprogrammed her own mind to forget about her children. To forget about so much. They nabbed her because she hadn’t been watching out for them. They managed to take her away from the ones she wanted to be with the most. The ones she beared hell to be with.

At least, that’s what she first thought it had been, being a Pretender’s ‘girlfriend’ or ‘wife’. His lackey. Forced to act in ways she didn’t want to. Forced to be in places she’d never go. For them. “I’m so sorry.” There was nothing else she could say. Even that was useless. They were too young to understand her. Too young to ever remember this betrayal of being away from them for so long. “If momma saw me now, she’d be so disappointed.”

“I don’t think she would,” Jarod’s voice came from the doorway. “I think she’d be happy you have them back.”

Miss Parker turned around and saw Jarod. She didn’t even care that she had slightly wet cheeks. “City. Town. County. How far away?”

“Safe,” Jarod assured her.

“It’s never safe. There’s relatively okay for the moment, and then there’s screwed,” Miss Parker corrected him. She put down Onyssius so that she could pay Angel some attention. She picked up her daughter, before she heard Jarod speak again.

“Then, it’s relatively okay for the moment,” Jarod said to her. “I. Made it too hard for Hades to continue. He’ll either live with a mind that can’t do much, or The Centre will take care of him. A Centre. Triumvirates. Someone will. He can’t hurt anyone, anymore.” He was fiddling around for something. “I missed you.”

Miss Parker kissed Angel on her forehead, trying to show her the same love and affection as Onyssius. They both deserved so much affection. Leaving them for so long. “Me?” She questioned. “Yeah. Don’t feel like a failure ‘cause you couldn’t get me back right away, Jarod. They made it really hard.” She shrugged. “I mean? I lived in a house that wasn’t even mine. I knew it, and I didn’t. I couldn’t put the two together.” She reached in her pocket and pulled out her sister’s rosary. “I kept this hidden in my other home. I kept looking for that spot for it. When things got bad, I wanted to find it, and I couldn’t.” And still, she couldn’t connect the dots?

“You were mentally blocked from figuring it out. But, I knew where you put it at,” Jarod said. “I gave it to Sydney, to give to you. When no one’s there, you need it. Even when someone tries to be,” he admitted. “Even though I couldn’t remember, I’m glad you kept coming to me night after night. No matter what.”

Miss Parker looked down at Miss A., somewhere else to look. “You restored my memories.”

“And mine,” he answered. “Most. I can only go back so far, but it’s enough.”

“Do you remember when you were younger?” Miss Parker asked.

“ . . . I remember the father’s day card,” Jarod admitted. “Doesn’t work as well, the further time goes by. But, it doesn’t matter. I can remember what’s important. And I have my family. And, one day soon, we’ll all be free,” Jarod said confidently. “We just need to travel to another little place in Paris.”

“Jarod, Sydney couldn’t do it,” Miss Parker said. “Come on, grow up. You know he couldn’t. He’d be unprofessional and they’d give you to Raines or the Triumvirate.”

“I haven’t been in The Centre for years,” Jarod answered. Forgiveness didn’t sound like it was on his tongue at all.

“No, you’re right,” Miss Parker answered. Not dwelling on her own problems was comforting. “A man that has taken care of you most of your life has fatherly feelings, rejects them so that you don’t get taken away, and when you grow up he mysteriously doesn’t want to say ‘by the way, Jarod, you were right. Let’s forget about your real father, concentrate on just me, and let’s go fishing like father and son.”

Jarod pointed toward her. “That’s not fair. You’re ignoring your own issues.”

“And your ignoring yours. You want Sydney to admit he had deeper feelings than he ever let on? How would you feel if he walked in here, right now, and confessed he did?” She asked him. “Would you accept it? Just let it blow over like a leaf? How exactly is him confessing something like that supposed to make life better? It’s still the same bass ackwards planet it’s always been. Whether friend or . . . father.” She flared her nostrils. “And you know what? For months I thought he was dead. You’re a Pretender, yet you haven’t tried pretending to be Sydney. A career is not a person. You don’t think he’d feel beyond guilty putting you in that position? Asking if you’d be his son? And . . .” And her head hurt. And laying into Jarod wasn’t making her feel any better. “You know deep inside the truth. He knows the truth. It tries to come out, hell just happens. So maybe just accept that you are both friends with maybe something more? Because that something more doesn’t need to be said. If it’s there.”

She watched him move forward and rubbed one of the tears from her eyes.

“You’re right,” he said. “We’re just friends, who had a hard start.”

“There you go. See how nice denial feels?” Oh, her head was really going at it.

“Relax. The guilt is getting to you too, and you couldn’t help it either,” Jarod said. “Why don’t you bring them in the main room. See Debbie. See my mom. Not bypass the Welcome Home party that was also for you? At least say hi?”

Yeah, of course he caught that. “Fine.” As she walked away though, she heard it again.

“Miss Parker, Can I analyze you?”

Would she hear that for the rest of her life until she agreed? He did get me back to my children. He also . . . Hades. He gave me back everything, so. I. “Maybe one day,” she said casually. If perking up had an actual sound, Jarod made it. Oh no, what have I unleashed with just that statement?