Trials: Part Nine

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Jude sat on the sofa, watching some football. Sunday afternoons were his best solace from everything. Everyone just let him be, and more importantly, he let himself be. It was a time to be unproductive, and not think about your issues. Issues like being confined to a house with nothing to do. He supposed he could exercise, but he just didn’t have the energy. He noticed his mind wandering, and tried to stop, but it was futile. As much as he had tried to quiet his issues, football wasn’t cutting it.

He closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. He opened his eyes, and felt a kind of zen. This feeling of zen was shattered instantaneously by a pathetic 20 yard sack.

“Oh, come on! What are you doing!” Jude yelled at the screen.

The doorbell rang several times. Jude looked around, but saw nobody else. He sighed and got to his feet. He looked through the peephole, and saw some woman he didn’t recognize.

He sighed and opened the door. On the other side, stood a woman. She looked to be about his age, average height, and had short black hair, with an undercut. He also noticed that she wasn’t holding any pamphlets, just a book bag , and that there didn’t appear to be an unusual car nearby.

He started to speak, but she cut him off. “Are you Dayspring? I need to speak with Dayspring.” She had an earnest expression on her face, as though something were terribly wrong.

He weighed his options for a moment. In the end, she was most likely just another fan, and this really wasn’t a good time for this. It was a Sunday, after all. Heroes need days off too. Once he thought that, the thought occurred to him that every day was a rest day for him right now, but he stuffed that thought back where it came from. “Nope, no supers here.”

She looked at him for a moment, but then looked past him. She seemed to be in disbelief. Jude turned around to see Deven standing behind him, and shook his head.

“Is that the pizza guy?” Deven asked.

He knew that it couldn’t have been that easy. Jude turned back around and offered a weak smile. “Yes I’m Dayspring, what do you need?”

“Do you mind if I come in? This is kind of a lot.” She hesitated for a moment. “I’ve also been walking a lot today and really wouldn’t mind sitting down somewhere air conditioned. I’m Arte by the way.” Once she mentioned it, she did look rather tired.

“Uhhhh…” Jude looked back over his shoulder. He wasn’t proud of it, but the place was a mess. Pizza boxes were stacked up next to the couch half as tall as him, cans and bottles littered the floor, there was a mountain of dishes in the sink, and that was just the start of it. He felt a moment of intense shame. Two weeks ago he was gonna turn his life around, and already… This. “It’s kind of a mess…”

“Oh I don’t mind any mess… Please?” She made a pained smile. It was the kind of smile you see on fast food workers, who have put their dignity in a box, in exchange for a paycheck.

“Alright… Don’t mention the mess to anyone.” He opened the door, and headed for the kitchen, tidying up small messes along the way. He collected the pile of letters on the table, and threw them on the counter, then cleared off the rest of the clutter and food.

“Thanks for letting me in…” She followed Jude through the living room into the kitchen, taking special care to avoid the clutter as she stepped. She pulled a weathered manilla envelope out from her bag, placed it on the table, and took a seat. Jude sat down next to her, and watched as she pulled out several documents and pictures. “Okay, so I’m trying to not do this whole thing twice, is your blind friend here?”

“Blind friend? You mean Paul?” He debated for a moment how much information to give her, and decided on minimal. While he liked to assume the best of everyone, it was feasible that she could be against him. “He’s not here right now, why do you ask?”

“Okay, well I guess I’ll just go into it.” She sighed, opened the envelope, and pulled out a picture. A girl, about Jude’s age. She was smiling, and wearing a letterman jacket. “This is Ashley. A few months ago, she went missing. There was a shooting at her office, but her body was never found.” She slid a couple of documents discussing a shooting at a firm in Atlanta towards him. “I think she’s still alive.”

Jude looked over the documents for a moment in silence. “Touchdown, Falcons!” sounded in the background, but Jude resisted the urge to check the game. “So why do you think she’s still alive?”

“Well, I’ve spent the past few months investigating mostly.” She pulled out a few more papers, and handed them to Jude. “The thing is, I’ve been unable to find where she went. She was sighted at the airport, but the trail goes cold. That’s when I switched gears to ways I could find her, and realized that your friend could be the key! Do you think you could help me?” Her eyes were pleading, and Jude felt the pressure mounting.

Jude pretended to read the papers, and tried to hide the fact that he was panicking. Some girl had been investigating for a month, and came to find Paul, and it just happened to be while Paul was in Turkey for who knows how long. Additionally, he wasn’t really sure how she knew about Paul’s powers. “Well, the thing is…” Jude watched the hope fade from her eyes as he spoke, and it crushed his soul. “Paul is actually out of the country right now… For an indeterminate amount of time.”

Arte stared forwards for a moment. She lowered the file and papers to the table, and a tear emerged from her eye. The one tear was followed by many more, and she buried her face in her hands.

Jude scooted his chair closer to her, and placed his hand on her back. “Hey, it’s gonna be alright. This isn’t the end, I’m sure you’ll find your friend.”

“Dayspring, you don’t understand!” She spoke into her hands between sobs. “This is the end! I’m out of money, I don’t have anywhere to go! I needed this to work!”

“Oh… Shit.” Jude muttered. His brain stalled, he had no idea what to say to that. A stranger was sobbing in his kitchen, because he couldn’t help her.

Jude considered some options for her. The obvious solution was a hotel, but she said she was out of money, and while he had disposable income, he didn’t exactly have THAT much. It wasn’t like he really knew anyone around here either. The homeless shelter was an option, but not a good one. Not to mention, he didn’t actually know where it was or if there was one near here. The realization set in that he had two people in a five bedroom house. “Well, I guess I could clear out a room here. You could wait around for Paul to come back.”

“Really? Are you sure?” She wiped off her face and lowered her hands.

“Well, I mean, might as well. We can work out some of the details later. Let me show you where it is.” Jude got up from his seat and started towards the hall.

“Th- Thank you!” She got up and followed behind him.

He led her around some junk, and into the hall. He opened up a door, and entered into a small bedroom. In contrast to the rest of the house, this room was actually rather clean. A few boxes were stacked in the corner, and a keyboard stood against the wall. The bed was dressed and untouched.

“This was gonna be Paul’s room, but I can move his crap somewhere else. He doesn’t have much stuff.”

“Thank you so much!” She placed her bag at the foot of the bed.

“So, uh, yeah…” Jude paused. “Have you eaten today?”

“Well… Not really.” She looked down at her feet.

“Alright then, I’ll fix something. Probably chicken. I’ll let you know when it’s ready.” Jude started to turn, but something caught his eye. He noticed her necklace, an eight-spoked wheel. Something about it seemed familiar to him, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He figured he could worry about that later. Jude smiled, and went out of the room. As soon as he was out of earshot, he sighed, “Another Sunday gone…”

 


 

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Hey everyone! Don’t know who Arte is? Shame on you! Go read Artana. It was also my birthday some time this past week, so you are now morally obligated to follow me. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. Hope you have a good week!

 

(Art credit: WordPress Free Photo Library)

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