Chapter Nineteen: Afire (Part 1)
The first thing Erin saw was the ocean.
It was vast and astonishingly blue from east to west. Erin could hear the gentle waves gliding by the ocean rocks, and she listened to the songs of seagulls as they fly up in the early morning sky.
The ocean breeze has taken notice of her presence, making her shiver as it passed by. Even her long brown locks flew with the wind.
"Are you cold?"
It was a child's voice. His small hand clasped her finger tightly as they walked, and his big eyes looked at her with worry.
"I'm alright," Erin said wish such love. Using her index finger, she rubbed his hand with a smile, and they continued to walk as their bare feet stepped on cool, fresh sand.
"Are we there yet?" The little boy asked.
"But where are we going?" He asked again.
"You'll see when we get there."
"Okay." The boy whimpered, causing her to chuckle softly, not too loud so the boy wouldn't hear.
Erin felt nothing but bliss. Everything was so normal, so perfect, and so free- until the boy let go of her hand.
"Wait!" She yelled, running after the boy.
"I know where we're going!" The boy yelled back, heading straight to the main road. "I know where it is!"
"Wait for me!" She screamed, running after the boy. "Wait-"
"-ERIN! WAKE UP!"
Erin woke up to Derek's voice. He was holding her.
"...What happened?" She asked him as she looked around. She was no longer beside the ocean. Instead she found herself lying down on top of an extremely soft mattress, in an extravagant hotel room in Europe.
"You scared me," he sighed, squeezing her shoulders before he got off the bed. "I left you here to rest so I could take care of the luggage, but then I heard you screaming," he explained. "Who did you want to wait?"
"To wait?" She scrunched her forehead.
He nodded. "You looked like you were chasing someone, ordering them to wait."
She tilted her head.
"I can't recall."
He patted her head. "Must have been a nightmare."
Erin got off the bed to look outside. They had arrived a little after five in the afternoon, and she had taken a nice long nap.
It was pretty dark out now, yet the brief sleep had caused her to be completely energized.
As Erin got back to reality, she turned her phone on to check if her mother had sent any messages.
There was none.
No calls either.
"Did you get anything from Jacobs?" She turned to him. "My mother hasn't sent me anything today. What am I supposed to do in London?" She thought out loud.
Erin had been so used to going on location before actually finding out the purpose of it. One time she had attempted to get the details from her mother beforehand, but her mother wasn't responsive at all. It was only until she had safely landed that her mother would send her the word, in form of a text message or a very brief call.
She was a real businesswoman, Erin thought. She can't even trust her own daughter.
With that it mind, Erin wondered if something was wrong.
Derek shook his head. "Maybe she thinks we haven't landed yet."
"What a thought," Erin said under her breath. "She has superpowers. She can read minds and be invisible. She's probably here now."
Derek laughed at her words, yet she found nothing humorous about it. Deep inside, she thought her mother truly was a witch, complete with a magical broom.
Maybe she has a familiar too. She did recall seeing a black cat in her office one time.
"Let's walk outside for now," he said, nudging her. "I'll meet you down by the lobby. I just need to change," he said as he gave her a copy of the room key.
Erin nodded, and she made her way down.
"This place is certainly grand," she thought as she walked. Bronze doors welcomed guests as they entered, the marble lobby shimmering under the crystal chandelier. Every men and women she passed by was so well-dressed, she couldn't tell which ones are guests, and which ones are employees.
The Wellesley hotel in Knightsbridge is not just for anybody.
"Mom has such expensive taste," she noted, trying to imagine the amount of money needed for to stay for one single night.
As she walked through the hallway, she bumped into someone hard, causing her to spin on the other side of the hall.
"Are you alright?"
A man in a navy blue suit extended his hand. He gave her a rigid smile, his thick British accent evident in his every syllable. "I'm sorry about that."
Erin waved her hand in dismissal, and he walked away after another apology.
"I'm much more sturdier than I look," she said out loud, straightening out her navy blue trench coat.
"Are you really?"
Her eyes widened, not expecting anyone to be around. She turned to find Derek smiling sheepishly, his arms crossed on top of his charcoal sweater. He was even wearing jeans.
It was the most casual attire she had ever seen him in years. Mostly he wore suits or slacks.
"Are you falling in love with me again?" He grinned.
Erin quickly turned around to walk out of the entrance, but he grabbed her hand and entwined her fingers with his own.
"So this is our first date, huh," he said as they walked in the streets of central London.
Erin realized that he was right. Even after meeting him for the first time in New York, they had never gone on a real date despite his many invitations.
She still hated him back then.
And then, after the accident at St. Lucinta, she woke up to find him engaged with Vienna Dunkley.
What a riot.
"You're right," she replied. "This would be the first in years."
"So how does it feel?"
He held her hand tighter as they passed by a man playing the violin. He was of old age, yet he could still play an old romantic song so well it almost drove her to tears.
"How does it feel to go on a date?" He continued to speak as he looked at her with a sly look on his face.
"Weird," she admitted. "It's been awhile."
The whole ordeal of holding hands, eating in a restaurant and flirting - she hasn't done any of it in a while.
Quickly he pulled her into a skating rink. It was located a few blocks away from the hotel, and because it was nighttime there wasn't much people, so it was a perfect place for them to go.
"I don't skate," she said, hesitating to enter. He had already switched both their shoes to ones with blades, yet she stopped midway to entering the arena.
Derek left her in the stands, sliding his own skates on the nearly empty rink.
"Have we ever skated together before?" He asked her, and in that moment her mind went to the winter of her senior high school year.
Erin had just finished last period, and as she walked towards the school gate, she noticed a boy sitting down along the rocks with his headphones on.
It was Derek, who was patiently waiting for her to get home. He, too, had just finished his classes down by the nearby University a few blocks away, and now he has invited her to go skating.
She had never liked skating even before then. The picture of her walking like a newly born deer, skidding awkwardly against the white ice was too much for her, so she always avoided it.
However, that day, young Derek thought it would be funny to steal her cell phone from her hands, and run away before she could catch him.
Fortunately, the skating rink was just a five-minute walk from where they stood.
"I can't believe you, Derek Matthews!" She yelled, gasping for air. He had already entered the rink, standing right in the center of it.
"Come get it!" He teased, waving her phone in the air.
Erin felt like grabbing him from the neck. Sighing in annoyance, she strapped on the blades and attempted to go towards him. But as expected, she fell down after her fourth step.
"Hey, Bambi," she heard Derek from behind.
"You're dead, Derek," she said as she turned around.
And that's when she found him, kneeling at her feet, his blue eyes gazing warmly at her.
Erin hadn't realize how much he had grown, after being together for him for too long.
That was the day Derek made his feelings known to her, the day he had asked her to be his girlfriend.
"-Erin," Derek snapped his fingers in front of her, separating her from her thoughts.
"We have," Erin finally answered him. "We went to a skating rink once."
Derek nodded, satisfied. He extended her hand to her.
"Come on, try it."
Erin nodded, placing her arms on top of his. She let him drag her around. She fell, of course, but she had fun.
They stayed in the rink for two more hours. It had gotten dark, but the decorated street lights hanging above them shone like small diamond rocks on top of their heads.
For the first time in a very long time, Erin was having fun.
She hoped deeply that it wasn't another false alarm.
"Let's eat," Derek concluded as they got up. "I know a place."
They left the rink and walked, hand-in-hand, towards a small restaurant famous for serving delicious, hot soup in bread bowls.
They sat down on an empty booth. A man wearing a pasty hat rushed down to take their orders, leaving them alone afterwards.
Then, Erin heard as the theme song to 'Star Wars' played in awkward, Zelda-like tone.
"Ah, I have to answer this," Derek said, leaving her alone as he picked up his phone.
As he stood up, something bright fell out of his jacket, which caught Erin's attention.
"What's this?" She thought as she reached down to pick it up. Her new find was a folded piece of red paper.
Erin started to feel uneasy.
She knew it was bad to poke her nose in other people's businesses, but there was something about this red paper, and how small and carefully it was folded, that arose her suspicion.
Erin had seen this type of paper before, but she couldn't remember when.
And that's when it hit her.
That familiar red piece of paper was often found in Aris' bedroom. The Invisible Guardians used it daily to differentiate which documents they are.
She would often see Aris holding a paper of similar color whenever she went on to research about her client. In early mornings, Erin would wake up to find her sleeping in front of the computer, with the paper clasped tightly in her hand.
It was a bio card, revealing the entire identity of a human being in very few letters. Aris mentioned that those papers served as a 'cheat card' for guardians who would rather not touch the bigger, bulkier documents stored in the central headquarter in Switzerland.
She also explained the hassle of asking permission.
"As long as I know his name, I'm fine," Aris concluded.
Some important figures have gone on to using fake names, and as the guardian in charge, Aris had to make sure to fully identity this person in order to give them the level of protection needed.
If 'Class D' was written on top, then that means almost everyone in the organization can read the file, making the document less classified. However, if 'Class A' was written on, then only a handful can really see the document legally. She heard of more special classes, where only one or two guardians can have a glance over of the document, but Aris hasn't shown her of it yet.
Erin would often hear Aris complain, as some of her more important clients have gone on to using more than 10 fake names, as well as their children.
But why would Derek have this?
Erin shook her head. "He must have a reason," she thought.
Erin wanted to leave the paper alone, she really did, but in a matter of seconds she had already grabbed it away from the table and went on to open the top flap of the paper.
"There it is," she whispered as she touched the familiar symbol on the top right of the document.
It was the organizational crest of The Invisible Guardian - the same golden square outlining a silver diamond, with the initials "IG" written in blood red.
Upon recognizing the document as a helpful source, Erin expected to receive some answers regarding their current situation, but what she read had not only created more questions in her mind, she had stumbled upon a secret- one that changes everything she believed in.
Client Biography. Client Type: S
Client's Birth Name: Andrew Christopher Dean
Client's Current Name: Derek Matthews
Occupation: Chief of Operations at Greenwood Hospital. New York.
Birth Date: 01/26/1987
Elena Watson- Mother. Deceased.
James Dean- Father. Alive.
Client's adopted parents:
Michael Dean - Legitimate grandfather. Alive.
Gary David Dean - Legitimate half-brother. Alive.
Other Known Relationships:
Jordan Erikson. Deceased.
Relationship: Close comrade.
Occupation: Neurologist at Greenwood Hospital. New York
Wilson Jacobs. Alive.
Occupation: Former Chief at Greenwood Hospital. New York
Erin Grey. Deceased.
Occupation: Freelance Journalist. New York
Client is unaware of situation. Client has no knowledge of blood relatives.
James Dean, birth father, is unaware of client's real identity.
Gary David Dean, half-brother, is unaware of client's real identity.
Michael Dean, grandfather, is fully aware of client's real identity.
Proceed with caution.
Case Number: 03659.
A Third Chance at First Love - Chapter NineteenSecrets finally unravel themselves.
By Ceres Erigo