No surprisesYou know that feeling you get as your senses come to you slowly when you’re waking up? I feel the coolness of the sheets on my bare feet and shins. I love that feeling, so I roll onto my stomach to feel the cool down the front of my body as well. I reach across the soft sheets feeling for Alicia. She’s on her side with her curly dark brown hair pooled around her pillow. I admire the curves of her mocha colored shoulders for a moment before I spoon up next to her. I press my breasts against her back while I slide my arm over hers and she begins to stir. “Oh Emily, that’s my favorite way to wake up!” Alicia was cheerful today, probably because I have finally given it up. A promise I made to her to ensure we could spend a happy life together. “My favorite way to wake up… is when you twirl my hair in your fingers while you’re laying behind me.” I tell her, my voice still sleepy. Alicia is fascinated by the texture and color of my hair because it is so much different than her own. My hair is auburn and thin as where hers is much thicker and a beautiful shade of caramel brown. I often call her my ‘bi-racial hottie! “I’m happy to wake up next to you no matter what.” She tells me with a smile and rolls over to face me. She brings her face close to mine, softly caressing my cheek. We both began to drift back to sleep but a loud thump from the street startles us. She giggles and I smirk. “We should get up.” She says, pulling away like she is getting out of bed. I grab her arm and pull her back to me. “No, I gave it up so we could lie here together for as long as we want, remember?” I said snuggling into the pillow while holding onto her. The loud bang from outside happens again and we both look to the window, this time it seems closer. “No…” she corrects me. “You gave it up so you wouldn’t end up in an early grave.” She says smiling, this time pulling away. Alicia sits at the edge of the bed, and bunches her hair up while her hand searches the night stand for a hair tie. “Same difference…” I protest and pull her back to me. “I’m not afraid to die…I am afraid to die alone.” I say and roll on my back and stare at the tope colored ceiling. “…Cold on the sidewalk or warm in a hospital bed with no one to hold your hand or stroke your hair, it seems… awful. You know?” She frowns and moves in to kiss me. “Well you don’t have to worry about that any more, right?” The bang returns and I jump, it was so loud this time it sounded like it was in the room with us. The room grows dark around me changing from the soft hopeful morning to a more sinister dimly lit environment. You know that feeling of your senses coming to you slowly as you wake up? My eyes are closed. Things on my body start to hurt, from my legs to my head, with the worst of it growing in my stomach. There is a strong smell of gas mixed with the sweet smell of radiator fluid. I open my eyes and turn my head. I am looking Alicia in the face as she is seat belted in the front seat of her SUV. Her eyes are closed and a single stream of blood is running down her face from her hairline. It is hard to keep my eyes open, they feel so heavy. Beyond Alicia is blacktop sprinkled with broken glass and sheet music, which made me realize that the truck was on its side. I was dreaming about our morning. I start to remember, we were on our way home from the concert hall. Did I cause this? Is this my fault? “Alicia” I call to her but my voice is weak. I raise my arm to touch her face and the pain tears through my stomach. I cry out but even that sound is weak. I look down at the black dress I am wearing; it’s covered in blood, which is coming from my stomach. I look forward out of the windshield and I realize it is my fault. She wanted me to stop before something like this happened. It’s never that easy, the world decides when you are ready. You don’t just quit. It takes time to do it safely. Fuck!“Come on baby.” I groan and reach to wake her. I hold out my fingers under her nose to check if she is breathing. My heart feels like it’s beating out of my chest, but I am relieved to feel warm air across my knuckle. The loud pop we heard previously happens again. This time I know what it is. It’s a sound I am very familiar with. The bullet hits the windshield and sprays us with tiny bits of glass. The safety glass holds in place causing the bullet to leave another nasty jagged hole. Out of instinct I reach for the glove box and pop it open. It hurts to reach across like that. In fact, it hurts so much that I forget there is nothing in the glove box to help me. The only thing in there is the owner’s manual. My gun is gone, locked away for the betterment of my future. I look through the window trying to see out of the wrecked glass. A car smokes across the dark street, its front end smashed in. The driver stumbles and staggers towards us with his arm leveled, pointing, and firing a Glock handgun at the truck. He takes his time probably hoping to kill me from a distance so I won’t be able to get to him first. He has no idea I am retired from professional killing, he probably assumes I am still active, so he plays it safe. I still don’t know why he is trying to kill me. My best guess is revenge and there is no talking your way out of that. You have to put them down. “You bitch!” he yells. “You murdered my son. “ He shouts at me with a voice fueled by rage. This is bad.I push the release on my seat belt release but nothing happens. He fires again; the bullet goes into the console, pops it open and the contents spill out. There is a tiny metal nail file from Alicia’s manicure kit. I grab it and hold it close to my body. “I am going to kill you slow…you…you cunt!” He fires again, the shot goes wide. “Stop shooting that god damn gun!” Screaming is a bad idea; it hurts and makes me feel dizzy. “I won’t fight you. Just let me get out… and you can kill me or whatever you want…okay?” I shout, even though it’s hard to do so. I feel cold and weak. He is now at the truck’s windshield pointing the gun towards me and squinting as he tries to look through the broken glass. “I can’t fight you.” I say shaking my head. “You got me in the stomach….there’s blood all over. I’m dying okay? Fuck off!” I keep calm, I have been in bad situations before just not this bad. I don’t have the energy to get scared. My main concern is protecting Alicia. Once he has me, hopefully he will leave her alone. I am not going to try and wake her any more. I need her to stay unconscious so she doesn’t become a witness. Killers don’t like to leave witnesses no matter if it’s their first or their hundredth. He is an old man and when he smiles his teeth are yellow behind a white mustache. He braces himself with his hands on the truck and begins kicking at the glass. The windshield slowly caves in spraying us with a mist of glass. I cover my eyes with my arm and shield Alicia’s with my hand. The old man pulls the glass free and tosses it on the cement. “I don’t want to kill you with this gun my dear. I am going to kill you with this knife instead. The way you did my boy…” His eyes grow teary and his expression darkens as he pulls a knife from behind his back. Whatever he’s going to do to me is going to hurt but I will probably be dead soon enough. If have any chance of saving Alicia I need to take him out before I can’t move at all. “Let’s get you out.” He tells me while reaching to unfasten the seatbelt. As he reaches across my lap he is close enough for me to drive the nail file into his neck, but I wait. Being strapped in prevents me from getting the leverage I need to really bury it somewhere important and hit something vital. I am going to wait until I am on the ground. He struggles with the seatbelt and opts to cut me free instead. It is an awkward moment as he pulls me from the wreck with my arms around his neck like he is going to rescue me. Once clear of the wreckage he drops me like a bag of trash. As I fall to the ground he stumbles backwards. He must have injured himself when he crashed his car into us. “Okay, let’s get this throat cut.” he says a little out of breath. He leans down grabs a handful of my dark red hair and pulls my head back to expose my neck. At the same time I look to the truck and see that Alicia’s eyes are open and she is looking at me. Her breathing is heavy and the intensity of the situation is catching up with her. She opens her mouth to speak or scream but nothing comes out. As he notices her moving he says, “Looks like I’ll be killing your friend next. First, I am going to cut your throat and then I am going to walk over and shoot her twice in the chest, while you lay there dying and watch.” “You’re doing me a favor, she was my next job. Shoot her in the left eye, that’s what the client wants.” I smile weakly trying to sell my bluff. He lets go of my hair and steps back proudly. “Bullshit…you held hands as you came out of the concert hall. You had a tear in your eye as she played the piano.” I am just now noticing his suit. He must have been in the hall with us during Alicia’s performance.“This is gonna hurt both of you, just like you hurt my family when you killed my son. We wanted to get him help; we knew he was a deviant. We needed time. You took that time from us.” His eyes are full of certainty and hate. “I think I remember your son now. I don’t often get asked to kill someone with a knife. That only happens for grudges. Did he have a thing for rape and torture?” I ask. “Yes.” He says softly. ”He picked the wrong girl. She was the new wife of Dominic Giacalone.” I pause to catch my breath. “Dominic is no saint with the things he’s done in this city. He’s a murderer too or do you think he is just some innocent upstanding citizen?” He said defensively. “I don’t get paid to think.” I tell him. “I get paid to follow instructions. Do you want to know what those instructions were?” He scowls at me but stays silent; I take this for a yes. “Dominic asked me to… remove is manhood and let him bleed to death.” He listens, and balls up his fist as his hands begin to shake. He can’t look at me so he looks at the ground and I can see the tears in his eyes. I tilt my head trying to find his gaze and look in his eyes. I even lean in teetering on my elbow. I am trying to get inside his head and take control of the situation. “I had to bring those parts back to Dominic. What he planned to do with them I don’t know.” I smile smugly because I know what he did with those parts. The old guy’s hands began to shake and he erupts with a scream. “He mailed them to us!”He takes a firm grip on his knife and leans in towards me pulling my hair again. Finally he is close enough so I grab the back of his head and thrust the small file towards his neck. He puts his hands up in some clumsy reflex. The blade breaks as it hits his wrist bone causing only a small cut. Luckily it is enough to scare him and he turns away from me, to look at the wound. I fall back on my elbow and rest for a moment when I see his gun sticking out the back of his pants. My body comes alive from the pain as I summoned the strength and will to sit up and grab it. In a split second I look it over …one in the pipe and the safety is off. I love life’s little rewards. “Bye old guy…” I whisper.He turns and looks at me while holding his wrist. I fire once; I surprise him, it hits him in the chest, and knocks him to the ground. He seems to hold his breath for a moment before he relaxes his body and goes limp. I crawl towards him pulling myself with my elbows while still holding tight to the pistol. I fire two more into his body just to be sure. It’s an old habit. I finally earned some rest. I fall back flat on the ground. Some of the pain is subsiding and I am just cold now. I lay on my back staring into the sky, looking through tears. I want to hold Alicia but I don’t think she can get to me in time. I don’t even have the strength to sob. I can feel the despair in my chest, it’s heavy. Don’t I get a dying wish? Is this the hell I was promised? I have to lay here alone with my love only feet from me. I hear Alicia cry out to me. It seems so distant. Footsteps crunch on glass and they are getting closer. Within seconds Alicia is at my side. She cradles my head and holds my hand. She puts her face close to mine. I can feel her warm tears on my face. “You’re here” I whisper. “I wasn’t sweatin’ it…”
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