A bright flash of light and a loud rumbling woke Logan with a start. Instantly and instinctively, the slumbering fireman rolled out of his bed, reaching for his pants. "Where are they?" he wondered, groping in the darkness for the feel of cotton cloth. Another flash lit up the room with a dazzling electric glow, followed immediately by a resounding roll of thunder. Logan abandoned his search, realizing he wasn't at the firestation awaiting an emergency call.
"My God, I'm so conditioned that I didn't even notice that the room was still dark," he scolded himself. That thought kind of concerned him. Still in a state of semi- consciousness, the sleepy young man allowed his mind to wander.
Muffled raindrops drummed overhead as another flash of lightening lit up the dark night. The thunder grew louder and more frequent as the rain droned onto the tin roof above Logan, hypnotizing the sleepy fireman into a deep slumber. "I don't want to wake up again until morning," he instructed his sluggish brain, leaving the waking world.
Next thing Logan remembered was slowly regaining consciousness to the continuous droning of a pouring rain. He laboriously cut through the cobwebs coating his awareness until finding himself enjoying the warm bed and friendly darkness surrounding him. The sound of soft footsteps startling the fireman wide wake. Oh shit, had the kidnappers come back at night against his expectation? Was there an animal in the room that would soon attack him? He lay still in the impenetrable darkness, afraid to move lest he be discovered by the intruder.
"Logan, you awake?" a familiar whispering voice soothed the young man's panic. "Logan, can I come in for a minute?"
"Amanda, is that you? Uh, okay. Is everything alright?"
"Yeah, I'm just feeling a little afraid and lonely. Can I come in here with you for a while?" the girl asked quietly, sitting gently onto the edge of the dark bed. A bright flash of lightening lit the room with a dazzling brightness, illuminating Amanda's white nightshirt like a specter, then left them once again in total darkness. An instant rumble of thunder rattled the windows and bed for several seconds. "Oh, Logan, I'm so scared. Please hold me for a while."
The surprised firefighter hesitantly put his arm out to the young woman. Amanda slid silently under the musty sheets and blanket, snuggling tightly against Logan. She shivered slightly. The falling rain hummed endlessly on the tin roof as another flash of lightening lit the small room, followed in a few seconds by a more distant roll of thunder. I'm glad I found this pair of sweats to sleep in, he thought shyly, holding his companion loosely in his arms. Logan was feeling more than a little awkward at the moment.
"Can I kiss you, Logan?" Amanda asked, nuzzling closely up to his ear. Without awaiting a reply, the young girl kissed the Irishman softly on the lips. She drew back, "Won't you kiss me back? Just kiss me, Logan."
"Amanda, I. . . I can't. I'm too much in love with Morgan. I couldn't do that to her. I'm really sorry."
Silence answered him. The dark figure remained motionless against a bright flash of lightening, then rapidly slipped from his side to sit at the edge of the bed.
"Boy, that makes me feel just wonderful," Amanda finally answered at a whisper. "I get left on a deserted island with the only committed man on earth. I'm sorry I'm not Morgan, I just thought that. . . ." She stood bruskly to the side of the bed, cloaked in darkness. "I'm sorry I'm not good enough to. . . ." The dejected girl sniffled deeply. Logan could sense her shame through the deepness of the night.
"Amanda, it's not at all that you're not good enough. You're a wonderful woman. It's just that I've committed myself to Morgan. She feels like the other half of my soul," the struggling lad answered seriously.
The tapering rain beat a soft melody through the darkness as Logan reached out across the bed toward the standing woman. "I really do like you Amanda, a lot. Under different circumstances I would enjoy being here with you very much. But, I really am in love with Morgan and I keep my promises."
Without another word, to another flash of brilliant lightening, Amanda slipped through the dark doorway. A loud clap of thunder coordinated perfectly with Logan's head flopping onto his pillow.
The dazed fireman stared into the dark ceiling full of wondering thoughts. His head spun, questioning everything. Why did this happen? Did he do the right thing? "Well, at least I feel desired," he consoled himself, slowly drifting back into the dream world. Erotic fantasies spun through his dreams like vultures picking the bones of a fresh kill. Animal lusts haunted him, taking turns tempting and scolding the lad. Logan once again awoke with a start, dreaming his mother spotted him in the throes of passion with a strange woman.
"Whoa, boy! Nothing like startling yourself out of a deep sleep!
An unexpected chill had filled the room in the grey morning light as a soft rain continued to patter on the metal roof. Logan shivered, pulling the thin blanket tighter around his neck. He couldn't believe how cold it had suddenly become. The thin, threadbare covering didn't offer much protection against the damp chill of a wintery swamp. He would have to locate more blankets today.
"Good morning," a shadowed face peeked through the dim doorway. "Gosh, I'm freezing, do you know where any more blankets are?" Elizabeth pleaded through chattering teeth. One thin blanket was draped loosely around her shoulders, providing little protection against the frigid air. The young girl shook visibly in the dim light.
No, I'm sorry. I was just thinking about finding more, myself. You can look around in here, if you like, and see if you can find another.
Elizabeth slipped into the room, making her way to his bedside. She sat gently on the edge of the bed and turned to him, "Do you have a candle or anything in here? It's still not quite light enough to see very well," the young woman asked quietly.
"No, I sure don't. I didn't bring any candles in last night."
The young woman's eyes deflected to the brightening floor, spotting another blanket laying carelessly at her feet. The curious girl stooped, tenuously picking up the pile of material. "I thought you didn't know where another blanket was," she responded harshly. "Trying to save this one for yourself? Wait a minute, isn't this the blanket that was on Amanda's bed last night? I'd recognize this ugly thing anywhere!" Elizabeth sprang off the bed, "Was my sister in here with you last night? What were you guys doing, a little hanky-panky to while away the hours or just plain trying to take advantage of a vulnerable woman?" Liz trounced out of the room.
"Neither," the fireman called after her, "nothing happened." His voice trailed off to a whisper to be drowned out by the increasing rain. Logan decided to brave the cold and get out of bed. Slipping the heavy coat over his shoulders, the shivering young man thanked the powers that be for at least having it with him.
Ambling into the dimly lit living room, Logan spotted Elizabeth curled into a ball, lying on the dingy sofa, wrapped in her blanket and the one pick up from the bedroom floor. He scurried into the small kitchen to light the burners on the propane stove. The chilled lad had to do something to warm the drafty cabin. He then walked to the couch, sitting at Elizabeth's head. The silent girl pretended to pay him no attention, shivering severely under the ancient blankets.
"Liz, nothing happened between your sister and me. I'm telling you the truth. She came into my room for a while, but nothing went on," Logan tried desperately to explain.
"Yeah, right. And her blanket magically appeared from her own bed," the younger girl responded snidely, snuggling tighter into the covers.
"Really, nothing happened. It could have, but it didn't. It's a long story but we didn't. . . you know," Logan attempted to explain tactfully.
"You mean, you turned her down, too?" Elizabeth asked almost comically, peeking out from under the cover. "Oh my God, refused again," she suddenly brightened. "This is always happening to her. Amanda makes a play and gets turned right off. Usually by a guy who has a steady girlfriend or a wife or something. Once there was even this gay guy who. . ." she trailed off contemplatively, leaving the rest to the imagination.
Logan felt awkward. Or really, he didn't know what to feel. The astonished lad suddenly realized that he had been the perfect player in a perfect plot. His part had been played completely unconsciously.
Elizabeth moved herself onto his lap, putting her arms snugly around his waist. "I'm freezing," she chattered, "I'm not trying to make a move. Not a good time for that anyway."
Amanda strolled into the room and headed directly for the glowing burners of the propane stove. She opened the blanket that was wrapped tightly around her shoulders, to the fires, attempting to capture some radiated heat. Without a word, the frowning woman glowered at the sight of her sister curled up in Logan's arms.
"Hey, sis, where did you find that blanket? See, I got the one you left in Logan's room," Elizabeth taunted, waving a corner of the blanket for her sister to see.
Amanda made a startled yelp and ran from the living room into the dark bathroom. Logan closed his eyes in shock at the action. He could just imagine an all out war between the three captives on the tiny island. He couldn't let that happen, the consequences would be too great.
"Ooops," Elizabeth responded, releasing the corner of the blanket. "Maybe that was a little too bold." She spun around, sitting up on the edge of the crusty sofa. Sobs began bellowing from the curtained off bathroom. "I had best go apologize."
Logan agreed, wishing he knew a good way to be a peacemaker. Elizabeth slipped through the dingy curtain that was roughly installed across the bathroom doorway, the blankets billowing behind her like the train of a threadbare princess. The sobs became even more intense, reaching a howling wail. The concerned firefighter wondered if Elizabeth was doing something to make the situation worse. Gradually, the crying lessened, eventually ceasing all together.
Elizabeth emerged from the tiny room with her sister following directly behind. She scurried across the warming room into the kitchen and rubbed her hands over one of the flaming burners. "She'll live," the younger sister mouthed silently to Logan as Amanda disappeared wistfully into their bedroom. "Hey, let's have some breakfast! This would be a perfect day for some of that pancake mix you found down in the store room. If you'll go get it, I'll cook."
Logan's stomach was tied into knots. How could this woman even think about food right now? Begrudgingly, he rose from the couch, pulled his warm jacket more tightly about his shoulders and headed toward the exit. A chilled gust of air met him upon opening the door and stepping outside. The frigid fireman slowly made his way down the rain slickened stairs to the puddled landing. The wind blew fiercely around his head, chilling his ears and tossing a tuft of oily hair into his eyes. The dim, misty atmosphere cast deep shadows in the swamp around him. Are alligators active in weather like this? he wondered, taking a careful look around.
Logan's eyes brushed across the small boat that was left lying out just a day ago. It looked more like a child's toy swimming pool now than a life raft. The events of the previous few days began swimming through his memory, washing away his consciousness like a flash flood of emotion. What should he do now? What could he do now? They all still needed to concentrate on leaving the island, but all of the other events that had happened made that fact seem secondary.
Still staring at the little boat, the tumultuous lad sat onto the lowest wet step of the stairway. Feelings of grief flooded his attention. His thoughts wandered onto Morgan and Amanda, contemplating his actions and feelings toward the two. Guilty feelings began creeping through his mind. She shouldn't have ever put him into that situation last night! That was totally out of line! Somehow blaming the woman didn't ease seem to help ease his mind any.
The turmoil just seemed to grow. What if Morgan really did think he was dead? What if she found someone else and became involved while he was absent? Could he blame her? "Oh, Morgan, I'm alive! I'll be back with you shortly, I swear." A tear slid down Logan's cheek as feelings of lonliness and remorse overcame him. The dimness seemed to grow deeper, sitting there in confusion and despair. The pining man felt totally overwhelmed with emotion, not even knowing where to start feeling. Or, where to end it. He couldn't tell if the deepening gloom was internal or the clouds were really getting darker. His ears, as cold as they were, began feeling heated with the emotion of the moment. The damp, biting wind even seemed to just disappear. A light rain began anew, at first a fine, soaking sprinkle, then quickly turning into a softly pelting shower.
Raindrops beaded off of his vinyl jacket, rolling onto the undersized pants that he had dug out of the kidnapper's duffle bag earlier. Begrudgingly, the fireman lifted himself from his seat and splashed through the still ajar storage room door.
What had he come down here for? It was a real effort to shift his thoughts from his situation, back onto the task at hand.
Logan finally recalled the purpose of his endeavor, to find pancake mix. Searching through the rough shelves, the captive soon found his attention returning to his dilemma. He couldn't even recall which shelves had been searched and which ones hadn't. Pancake mix was about as far from his thoughts as was the moon. Obliviously picking up a box to look behind it, the unfocused fireman searched the gloom for his elusive quarry. "Oh, shit," he exclaimed finally looking at the box of pancake mix that he held in his hand. "Guess it's a good thing it wasn't a snake!"
With the box of powder in his right hand, Logan turned through the dim opening toward the stair. The drizzle had gotten heavier once more, seeming to cling to him like a clammy, weighted blanket that sucked the warmth from his bones.
"Just fabulous," the doused captive commented to himself, "Winter in the swamp. What a lovely dream vacation."
Logan's eyes wandered back onto the still uninflated boat. A surprising burst of energy seemed to course through his heart. "Soon as this rain lets up, I'm coming down here to get this thing inflated!" the fireman ordered himself sternly. Shifting his gaze from the boat, Logan took his first step back up the steep, narrow stairway.
Above him, the door of the cabin squeaked open. Amanda, bundled in who knows how many borrowed clothes, stepped through the opening onto the small veranda. Logan took another step up the squeaky steps, attracting the shrinking woman's attention toward him. Quickly, she turned her head, scurrying away around the corner of the porch until completely out of sight. Logan reached the summit of his climb and stepped into the dark cabin.
"It's about time," Elizabeth greeted him, "I was beginning to think that alligator had found you again. I'm starved, give me the stuff and I'll make breakfast."
The fireman skipped across the rough floor into the now warmed kitchen. Elizabeth took the box, read the instructions on the back and dumped a quantity of the powder into a bowl that she had dug out of a cabinet. "There, that should be about right," the girl decided, eyeing the bowl and weighing it with her outstretched arm. Taking the vessel to the hand pump, Liz jacked on the contraption until a spurt of rusty-colored water squirted onto the grimy sink. "Damn, I hate when it does that! Are you sure this water is safe to drink? But I guess it's too late to be worrying about that now," the squeamish girl answered herself, "since we've all been drinking it for days! She continued pumping the rough wooden handle until the water ran clear, then splashed a small amount into the bowl of powered mix. "You know, maybe we should have boiled this first."
Logan smiled at her, answering, "this water comes from a well down in the ground, it's not like we're drinking directly out of the swamp or something. If you don't feel comfortable with it, go ahead and boil it first, that will kill any germs."
"Hmmff, stuck out here in the middle of nowhere forced to drink unprocessed water! Really!" she reiterated jokingly.
"You know, mankind lived for thousands of years drinking wild water. Do you really think drinking it now is going to kill you?"
"Well, maybe not kill me, just jostle me a bit."
"Where did your sister go?" Logan asked curiously
"My sister wanted to be outside for a while," she answered, emphasizing the word 'sister'. "I think she's better off by herself for the moment."
Logan stood up, walked to the front door of the cabin and peeked through the small window. He saw Amanda sitting about halfway up the stair, looking downward and saying something animately to herself. She stared off into she dismal swamp, spoke again and began beating on the handrail vehemently. Suddenly the woman spun to look toward the cabin door. Logan shifted his view, spying out of one tiny corner of the glass.
Logan, watching the struggling girl intently, beginning to feel an overwhelming sense of compassion toward her. Jesus Christ, look at the stuff she's going through right now. And to think, I was blaming her for almost ruining my life just a few minutes ago, he prodded himself.
Amanda's shoulders suddenly relaxed. She seemed to hug herself silently. Logan could hear her begin to chuckle, softly at first, them becoming a full laugh. Soon, she was looking up into the still softly falling rain, laughing into the damp sky.
"Look at her out there," he prompted Elizabeth, "she's having a ball! And out in the middle of this cold rain! What the hell is she doing?"
Elizabeth moved over to the window beside him. The curious girl looked out and chuckled, "I don't know! She just said she wanted to be with her thoughts for a while. Amanda doesn't show her feelings very often, she's 'too mature'. In fact she can be a bit of a loner." The younger sister put quote marks around the phrase with her fingers.
Logan smiled. "Wow, that was quite a mood change," he responded. "Are you sure she will be okay? I mean, she's not going to have some psychotic break or something, is she?"
"Naw, this is pretty normal for Amanda. She usually gets stuck in something for days or weeks. Hell, some things she gets stuck in for years! Then all the sudden her whole perspective will shift like this. This time is just incredibly quick. It looks like she's having a blast."
Amanda quickly stood to her feet and spun in place, arms outstretched over her soggy head. She vaulted up the stairs, bursting through the front door so fast that Logan and Elizabeth almost didn't have time to move out of her way. "Jeez, give a girl some room!" she laughed racing through the doorway.
"Sis, you OK?" Elizabeth questioned, stunned at her response.
Suddenly, the excited lass stopped and looked over at Logan, turning bright red. "Oh, Logan I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have put you on the spot last night and I really shouldn't have gotten mad at you about it. Well, really, I never got mad at you, I was mad at myself and feeling pretty stupid. Thanks for being honest and strong."
Logan was taken aback. He didn't know how to respond. "You're welcome," he finally returned weakly.
Amanda sauntered to Elizabeth's side, putting an arm around the girl's shoulder and escorted her younger sister into the bedroom, speaking in hushed tones before they both disappeared through the doorway. Liz's hysterical laugh was the next sound that Logan heard, followed by a long, loud roll of thunder. "Women," the fireman commented to himself, returning to the kitchen to finish the pancakes that had been abandoned.
Morgan closed and locked her apartment door, then started down the spiraled second floor stairway toward the parking lot. She glimpsed at her watch, descending through the first rays of dawn that peeked through the wrought iron spindles and handrails along each side. The cool early November breeze gusted through her hair, carrying the scent of fresh pine and the crisping leaves of fall. It was still only seven- fifteen, the lass wasn't required to be at work until eight thirty. She'd be at work almost an hour early.
Since Logan's departure, the pining redhead had noticed a tendency to leave for work a little earlier each morning and stay a little later each evening. "Keep busy," she would instruct herself, "Just keep yourself busy and let time slip by until Logan gets back."
Her anticipation had become somewhat like that of an anxious lover awaiting the return of an absent mate. Consciously, Morgan would remind herself that he was coming back, no matter what evidence was produced to the contrary. It was just the waiting that was clawing at her now. That and a certain amount of fear on occasion. Fear that Logan might feel differently about her after his return. What would be worse, her lover never returning or to have him return only to reject her for someone else?
Whenever the fearful thoughts would start, Morgan would scold herself. "No, no I can't think thoughts like that! It just won't do! I've got to only think positively." However, it seemed the more she resisted the dark thoughts, the more they stayed in place, unfazed by her positive thinking. So, now it was just easier to focus on something all together different.
Maybe she could fit a morning routine at the gym into her schedule. After all, it opened at six o'clock. Or, maybe do some volunteer work somewhere. That should keep her busy. Heck, maybe she should just go get a second job somewhere to occupy time in a constructive sort of way.
The only problem was, no matter how hard Morgan tried, there was no eliminating this deep, crushing pain that constantly surrounded her heart. It would ease now and again, allowing her breathing to become a little less laborious. Yet, anytime she was still and quiet for any period of time, the pressure returned to an almost crushing level. At times, the struggling young woman felt as if someone was literally standing on her chest, stifling all movement and breathing. The pain occasionally became so intense that the lass was afraid she had developed a serious physical malady.
"One day at a time," she told herself, reaching for the car door. Morgan had heard that phrase in so many different venues that she was almost sick of it. "Do whatever it takes to survive. Now I'm really getting disgusting!" The redhead stuck a finger in her mouth, pretending to gag herself. She was beginning to sound like all of those spiritual hokey-pokeys.
Morgan started the car and pulled out of the parking space. Some unknown entity sprang upon her from the blue, blanketing the spiraling lass with a dark, heavy emotion. From deep inside the young woman it welled up, gushing upward, to leak as a small tear out of her right eye, flowing down her cheek.
"Where the hell is all of this coming from?" Morgan wondered aloud, her tears beginning in earnest. "I wasn't even thinking about anything sad. Why the hell am I feeling all of this now?"
The mystery surrounding her emotional state was the only thing keeping the sobbing lass driving toward her job. Morgan's anguish was so intense that it became a physical feeling that had started in her chest and clawed its way up into her throat.
Somehow, the astounded woman got the mental image of a thick, hairy growth being stuffed into her chest and throat. Comical visions of having been possessed by some kind of an alien being skittered through Morgan's imagination, easing the heaviness of her emotional state. Pulling onto the freeway, the Irishwoman struggled to keep her eyes on the traffic conditions.
The traffic around Morgan slowed considerably, sometimes stopping altogether. This slow pace suited her state of mind just fine. The driver didn't have to put complete attention into driving, she could keep some attention on easing her emotional state.
At times, she became so caught up in feelings that Morgan forgot about driving, only to slam on the brakes as the traffic in front of her slowed to a stop. Old memories and ideas began ebbing through her consciousness. Memories, forgotten and half forgotten, skipped over various times in her life, recalling periods that hadn't been prompted in years.
It seemed that the memory of every old boyfriend, every best friend, every beloved pet who had ever left, flashed through Morgan's thoughts. One by one, they stuck up their forgotten heads and announced their, once sleeping, presence. Suddenly, a vivid portrayal of her grandfather sprang into the stunned young woman's awareness. She had not thought of him since being ten years old. This memory generated an intenseness unlike any of the rest. It commanded attention like a bagpipe and drum corp band marching through her mind. The girl's grandfather had died when she was only six years old, yet, she had missed him and awaited his return until turning ten. Deciding the old man must no longer like her, the lonely lass had put all memories of him completely out of her mind.
Morgan recalled her fond last memories of bouncing on the old man's knee while he promised to take her to the zoo the following weekend. She could recall his fiery blue eyes and grey hair like it was just yesterday. Then, her agony and confusion resurfaced, reviving the moment the crying girl was told she couldn't go to the zoo, because Grandad had gone up to Heaven instead.
Her heart pounded and breathing became ragged, reliving those moments of pain and disbelief. Next, the vivid memories of seeing him lying in his casket cascaded through the horrified young woman's memory. The bewildered lass couldn't understand why her grandpa wouldn't answer when she called. The feelings became overwhelming, her emotions demanding to be felt.
A car horn honked behind Morgan, bringing her back into the present moment. She looked up to see the cars ahead rapidly leaving her behind. Tears began flowing freely once again, blurring the woman's vision so badly that she could no longer see the roadway clearly. All she could do was pull onto the shoulder of the road and let the traffic go around. Horns honked and people stared as the line of cars drove slowly by, like an overdue funeral procession.
Morgan wrapped her arms across the top of the steering wheel, laying her head heavily against them sobbing. The stricken lass allowed her mind to slip back once more to her grandfather's funeral. Confusion flooded the girl's mind. Why did the man she loved most go away, leaving her behind? After all, he had promised to take her to the zoo! Grief flooded the reeling lass's awareness, the painful realization that she would never again see her grandpa setting in. The event was so clear, so vivid, as if the tormented young woman were really experiencing it again.
The sights and scents of the flower arrangements, the sounds of the people, including her mother, sobbing and sniffling, while quiet organ music played in the background seemed so real that the freeway just vanished into an ethereal haze. Morgan looked into the still, ghostly specter of her grandfather's face, seeing for the first time the peace and serenity that enveloped him. In some curious manner that sense of peace disturbed her even more. How could this man be so much at peace, leaving her and all the rest of these people behind in such agony? That was pretty selfish on his part!
"Wow, what am I thinking?" Morgan chastised herself, still imagining standing by the side of the casket. A sudden compassion flooded her like a wave of warm spirits. Had she been harboring those feelings ever since her childhood? The realization of never forgiving the man sat heavily upon her. The little girl had blamed him for leaving throughout her life, eventually removing the painful memory entirely from her tortured consciousness. Wow, what a vicious cycle, she thought, still looking into the serene face of the peaceful old man.
"Grandfather, forgive me for being so selfish! I know you didn't abandon me on purpose. I know that you would still be here if you could," Morgan apologized aloud. "I love you very much and I know that I will see you again someday! Rest in peace, grandpa, my memories of you will forever be fond." Morgan imagined reaching into the casket, touching the face of her loved one. His skin was unexpectedly warm and soft.
The old man's eyes slowly opened, at first startling Morgan. Her grandpa turned to her and smiled. "I've missed you, pumpkin," he responded lovingly. "You know, I'll live on as long as you let me. My only request is that you forgive yourself. You did what you felt necessary to deal with your loss, but now you've far outgrown that path. Live, Morgan, for now, while your time is right! I'll see you again sometime, when that time is right. For now, pumpkin. . . no, for now, Morgan, my beautiful lass, goodbye. I live on in your memory!"
The loving specter closed his eyes and the memory began to fade. Like a foggy day breaking into the sunlight, Morgan's mind began to clear, returning to the present. Suddenly, a knock on the car window startled her into full consciousness. She turned to see a dark haired gentleman with a very concerned look on his face tapping on the glass.
"Are ya' alright, lass?" the concerned gentleman asked with a very thick Irish brogue. "Is there anyt'ing I can do for ya'?"
Morgan uneasily rolled down the glass. "No, thank you. I'm just feeling a little sad right now. I'll be fine soon, I just need some time. I do appreciate your concern, though."
"Ah, yes lass. Feeling a wee bit o'grief at the appropriate time can be a marvelously freein' thing. My name is Jim, Jim Mullins. My wife and I are here on holiday and to do a bit o' business. Here's my card with the number where we'll be stayin' for now. If there's anything we can do for ya', even if ya' just need someone to talk to, please give us a call. I really mean that." Jim handed the tearful lass a business card and turned briskly toward his car.
"Wait," Morgan called after the fellow. He returned to the window. "I'm Morgan, Morgan O'Malley. I really do appreciate your concern, it's just so rare around here. Thank you very much."
"'Tis a shame, people I mean. It can be the same anywhere in the world. If we all had a little more compassion maybe we could all get along a bit better. Have a gorgeous day Morgan O'Malley! May your grief be the beginning of a grand new era." Jim turned once again, walking quickly to his car and drove off. His wife waved smilingly as they slowly drove by. The recovering young woman courteously returned the wave, feeling a small smile cross her face.
Morgan shifted the rearview mirror downward to view her face. A feeling of embarrassment struck her. Dark streaks of mascara stretched down both cheeks, surrounded by lighter areas where the blush had washed off. The disconcerted girl quickly rummaged through her purse for a tissue. "Jeez, I can't go to work looking like this," she commented aloud, snickering. "I'm going home. I'll call in to work and take a mental health day off and go enjoy myself somewhere!"
Morgan dappled the tissue across her face, cleaning off the worst smears. With a dappled face and a clear mind, the young redhead headed back toward her apartment. She felt a lightness and freedom that hadn't been felt in a very long time. Morgan wanted to live, not hide behind an old memory or run away from some feeling that couldn't be explained! It was time to experience life and whatever it had to bring. "So this is how freedom feels," the smiling young woman commented to the world.
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