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The next two weeks following Brian’s appearance at my door were filled with long hours, describing the past I’d experienced to Brian. He sat, spellbound and breathless as I wove long accounts of my life. He shed true tears of understanding when I described the pain and horror of leaving behind those who I treasured most either by their deaths or by the cycles of my life. Brian’s acceptance of my “condition”, as he referred to it, was complete now, and I felt freed somehow, able to confide fully in someone for the first time since the last time I’d truly been able to talk to Claire.
“I’ve always thanked God for you in my life,” Brian said suddenly one morning while he was staring into the depths of a bowl of Corn Flakes. I lowered the newspaper I’d been searching for the comics section to look at him. He poked the cereal with his spoon. “But somehow, now, knowing everywhere you’ve been and everything you’ve done, and all the time you’ve spent, I feel like - I don’t know – like I ought to thank Him all the more for you. I mean, He could’ve put you anywhere during these seventeen years, and He chose to put you in my life.”
“I thank Him for that, too, Brian,” I stammered, touched by the sentiment.
Brian smiled sadly. “I feel smaller, somehow.”
“How do you mean?”
“My life will last like, what, a hundred years at the max? – Don’t tell me,” he said, waving his hand as my mouth opened to answer the statement, “I don’t want to know, Nick. I’m just saying. At the very, absolute maximum, I’ll live like a hundred years, but you –“ He stared at me, puzzling, “You could live forever.”
“I don’t know that,” I answered, “Amie never told me what she saw for time.”
Brian nodded. I had told him about the peculiarity that Amie could see my numbers, but I could not see hers. “But she said it was different than others, right?” he asked, “Maybe they mean something else.”
“You should call her, Nick, and get some answers.”
“I know.”
I hadn’t dared to call Amie back yet. Honestly, part of me was frightened of what I’d learn, what she’d found out, of discovering more about my “condition”. I’d told myself for the past two weeks that not calling Amie back was of courtesy to Brian, so that I could focus my attention on making him understand before adding more elements to the confusion of my life. But now that Brian was finally okay with it – with me - I knew that I was just putting it off.
“You ought to call her tonight,” Brian said.
I nodded and glanced at the paper held fast to the fridge by my favorite magnet, bearing only the number I needed to call.
Later that evening, I was sitting on the couch, watching TV, when Brian came out from the kitchen and dropped the paper and the cordless phone onto my lap. He sat down next to me on the sofa, tucking his legs into a yoga-like fold, and raised his eyebrows at me meaningfully.
“Well, you said you’d call her.”
I frowned at the numbers on the paper, written in my shaky, nervous handwriting from the day Amie had called, and looked at Brian. “I’m scared,” I admitted.
Brian patted my knee reassuringly. “Nick, you need to know.”
“I know.” I sighed, “I just don’t want to know too much, either. I’ve always known too much, all my life, and it’s been beneficial at times – ‘cos at least this way I know when to make it count and when I can shoot at the wind – but, sometimes, it’s a burden.”
“Maybe there’s a way to stop it.”
“I don’t know.”
“But she might.” He pointed at Amie’s number.
I clicked the phone on and my thumb hit the numbers, hesitating only when I got to the last one. I looked at Brian. “Thank you for believing me,” I told him.
“Thank you for including me. Now hurry up, call her.”
I hit the last number and stared at the phone, my stomach doing acrobatic acts inside me as the hum of the ring came from the earpiece. Brian smiled reassuringly and pushed my hand, and the phone, to my ear. On the fifth ring, I was ready to hang up, sure she wasn’t going to answer – I took too long calling her back, I thought – but then ---
I nearly choked answering, “Hi, Amie? It’s – Nick.”
Silence. Then, “Nick, finally.” Now she was whispering.
“I’m sorry it took so long to call you back,” I said, “I’ve been kind of caught up in some – er – stuff, lately, and---“
“No, no,” still whispering. I could hear stuff moving around on the other end of the phone, and a door slammed shut and the wind across her mouth piece mingled with her breathing. “It’s okay. I understand.”
“Are you outside?” I asked, confused.
“Yeah. I didn’t want to wake up my husband,” she said.
She has a husband, I mouthed at Brian. His eyes widened, but then filled with a hopeful gleam.
“I’m glad you finally called me,” she said. “I was getting worried that you wouldn’t.”
“I was getting worried that I wouldn’t, too, actually,” I laughed.
“Nick, I researched the abnormality of your numbers and I think I have answers for you about why I can see them,” she said, point blank.
“How do you research this stuff?” I asked her.
“Through the ministry,” she answered, as though I should have known that.
“The ministry?”
“Mmm,” she hummed the confirmation. “Look, it’s a lot to explain over the phone, especially at ten o’clock at night. Can we meet up sometime this week?”
I looked at Brian, whose head was tilted slightly to one side. “Sure,” I answered, “My place or yours?”
“Meet me here in New York on Thursday,” she commanded, “At the Starbucks by Washington Square.”
“Okay. Starbucks, Washington Square. Got it.”
Amie’s voice carried a hint of sympathy as she said, “Okay. We’ll hash it all out over the weekend, so keep your schedule clear.”
“Can I bring a friend?” I asked. Brian’s eyes were searching mine, curiosity written all over his face.
Amie hesitated, “I don’t kn—“
“He already knows,” I told her, “And if he doesn’t come, I’m just going to tell him everything as soon as I see him next,” I added.
“Okay, then.”
“Okay. We’ll see you Thursday.”
I hung up and handed the receiver to Brian, as though getting rid of it might lessen the constricting feeling in my chest. I bit my lower lip.
“Thursday, huh?” Brian asked.
“Thursday,” I confirmed, nodding.