“Today, tragically, Charles Academy for the Gifted was apparently bombed this morning. The school is in ruins. Students were found walking around nearby neighborhoods, and when questioned, informed us that the staff heard of a bomb threat and sent them down to the basements for safety. Several staff members were in the basement with the students, but unfortunately most of the staff, including the founder, Charles Grant, were killed in the explosion.” Eliot turned off the radio for a moment.
“Who were the staff Tracy got out?” he asked, concerned.
Savannah glared at the radio. “We called them non-uniforms. The staff that was there to help, just doing their jobs, not directly involved with destroying the psyche of adolescents and young adults. Janitors, first aid nurses, academic professors, the innocents. Now turn the radio back on, we haven’t heard the important part yet.”
“—appears that what was recovered from the remains of the bombs were trademarks of several different terrorist groups from across the globe. It looks as though some terrorist groups are trying to frame each other for the bombing and are trying to destroy America from the roots: our children. This has lead to discussions of fortifying basements all in schools all across the country.”
Eliot clicked the radio back off. “We’re clear. It’s over.”
Hardison and Parker were heard celebrating over the coms. Eliot looked at Savannah with a smile, but to his dismay, she didn’t seem to share his joy. She clutched the sides of her head and panted heavily like it was painfully difficult to breathe.
He pulled the truck over. They’s been driving since the explosion. Thankfully, they were on a wider, emptier road outside of the busier city. “Savannah?” Eliot had the rare hint of fear in his voice.
The coms went void of jubilance. “Hey, is everything alright?” Hardison asked.
Eliot tried to get a closer look at Savannah, searching for signs of injury, poisoning, something forgotten. When the gasps were replaced by gut-wrenching sobs, he understood and was relieved. Nine years of running, burning, peroxide, night terrors, and now it was over. It was being able to breathe again.
“Everything’s fine,” Eliot mumbled into the com. “You guys head back to the office. We’ll be awhile.”
“Alright, cool,” Hardison sighed.
Eliot pulled the com out of his ear and carefully plucked Savannah’s com out of hers. He carefully put his arms around her and after she didn’t escalate, he pulled her close and tight. “It’s okay. It’s over.” Her body spasmed against him, but as he squeezed her, her breathing calmed a little. Her clothes were damp with anxious sweat.
It was almost an hour before Savannah settled enough to pull away.
“You alright?” Eliot pressed.
She pushed her hair behind her ear. “If I tell you where to go, will you drive?”
“Uh…yeah.” Twenty minutes later they were on a rudimentarily paved, unmarked road, grass with clusters of trees painted the landscape.
“Pull up here.” She directed him off the road to a particularly large group of trees. When she unbuckled her seatbelt, he cut the engine. With no words, she got out and he followed her into the thicket. She was several feet ahead of him at a large clearing, when he saw her start taking off her outer clothes. He picked up speed to catch up learned why. There was a small spring creating a pool about twenty feet across and probably an average of eight feet deep. She was barefoot and down to her tights and tank top. She took a running start and dove in with a celebratory squeal.
He shrugged, stripped off his shirt, kicked off his boots and jumped in after her. She came up giggling, just like the night in the rain. Eliot started to worry that Savannah may revert to the girl she missed out on being. His concerns were interrupted and possibly confirmed when she splashed him with the spring’s freezing water.
“Wha—” he sputtered. She laughed maniacally and started swimming away. He tried to grab her ankle, but she rotated and slipped out of his grip. This turned into about an hour and a half of water wrestling. She was especially slippery in water, so it was amusingly more difficult. When the match finally concluded, Eliot having conceded, he found a decent sized rock to rest on while she swam around for the following three hours.
How was it possible that she could keep going for so long like some sort of energizer bunny? She was nice to watch, though, as she chased fish and used the nearby rocks and trees as diving platforms. More than once, he caught her watching, staring at him. He pretended not to notice.
He climbed out of the spring behind her, then paused in thought. “I didn’t think this through.”
“What’s up?” she asked, digging through her clothes.
“Wet clothes aren’t exactly good for the truck seats,” he grunted with a splash of embarrassment.
She smirked and tossed him her hoodie. “Here, sit on this; I’ll change into the dry clothes and put the wet ones in the back.” He turned back to thank her to find she was just staring at the hoodie in his hands with a curious fondness. “I don’t need them anymore.”
He glanced at her on the ride home. She had dozed off shortly into the ride. The setting sun cast shadows over her face, enhancing the premature stress lines on her face. Water appeared to be her life source. She seemed so much younger around it. She was still young, but she was Parker young; a unique coat on innocence naivete awash a life with darkness no one should have to feel.
Unfortunately, she woke with a shrill gasp. Eliot habitually reached for her as she caught her breath. She groaned with exhaustion. The night terrors. They were going to get worse for a while since now it wasn’t the suits that would haunt her…it was their ghosts, and ghosts didn’t die.