The first thing I notice when I open my eyes is the darkness around me. There is a faint light coming from somewhere in my surroundings, but my vision is too blurry to truly paint a picture.
My mind goes to the last thing I remember. Two very large thugs beating the shit out of me. Trying to find my money. Like they'd have the guts to check my underwear. Best hiding place.
Suddenly, I hear the sound of snivels. Someone crying? And then, in between the softest sobs I've ever heard, is a voice. A broken voice.
"I'm not coming home," the voice whispers, a tone barely audible that only a bloodhound would hear it. "There's nothing for me there . . . No, no. I've made up my mind . . .
I'm twenty-three years old. I want . . . I need to find my own way . . . No, I can't. Being there, watching everyone I know moving forward . . . Yes, I feel held back . . .
Whatever; I'll keep you updated . . . That won't happen."
I feel like a jerk for listening. But that voice . . . So broken. An audible reflection of how I was feeling until now.
I shift in the - I guess I'm in a bed? - turning my body so I can try and find the owner of the voice. However, I do not get very far.
Something soft touches my shoulder and pushes me back to my former position.
"Don't move yet," the same, soft voice tells me. "You're probably still sore . . . Would you like some water?"
I open my mouth to reply, but I find I cannot speak. My throat is parched, which gives my evident answer.
"I'll help you," the voice says, a little louder now, but still soft, and I am now aware of her presence. "Let me fix those pillows."
A pair of gentle hands helps to assist me as I sit up. I feel the pillows adjusted and then the hands gently press me back. Then, one of those hands touches my chin.
Something small and hollow is gently pressed to my mouth. "Drink slowly," she tells me, and I comply. The cool liquid goes down my throat as I drink through the straw.
When nothing but air is being sucked through the straw, She takes it away. My vision is still obscured.
"Your eyes are still swollen," she says, her voice still soft. "But it should go down soon enough. Would you like something to eat?"
"Who are you?" I ask, unable to take the anomaly any longer. "And where am I?"
"You're in a motel room," she replies, her tone sounding more sure, though it remains at a near whisper. "I'm . . . I'm Angela Morgan. What's your name?"
"Jason . . . Jace Nichols," I say, lowering my voice to match hers. "What happened?"
"What do you remember?"
"Getting beat up . . . two large guys . . . not much after that."
"It would make sense . . . you were beaten pretty badly. I would have . . . I would have let them bring you to the hospital. But . . .
I didn't know if you had medical insurance or something . . . I certainly don't have it. But . . . Anyways, I saw what was happening and called the cops.
They might be passing by later to get your statement . . . I'm sorry that happened."
Angela sounds genuinely concerned, and even apologetic. However, all of my natural instincts, due to past experiences, are telling me that she doesn't actually mean it.
Sure, she might feel bad because she witnessed the event. But that doesn't mean she'll stick around. From what I remember of her phone call, - I'm assuming that's what it was - she's on the run.
Like me. Except, she wants a life . . . I want mine to end.
"Nothing to be sorry about," I say after a long pause. "I, um . . . I kind of was asking for it."
"I doubt you were asking for it," Angela says and the bed dips beside me. "From an outsider's perspective . . . those thugs were up to no good.
It's just a 'wrong place at the wrong time' scenario."
Angela's soft voice, for some reason, is pushing its way into my hardened exterior. But . . . like a harsh stream of water cutting through a rock. Random, but basically accurate.
Jace Nichols. I don't know why, but I am getting a very strange vibe from him. Not a creepy vibe. Like, I need to beware for my safety around him.
No, I'm getting the feeling he doesn't like the fact that someone stopped his muggers. Like he's not grateful that he going to be okay. And in a way . . . I understand the feeling.
I might be trying to find an escape. But I also feel like giving up.
"I'm going to get some more ices for you eyes," I say in my usual whisper. "I paid for just one night . . . so they might be coming to kick us out soon."
"I'll pay the difference," Jace softly replies; his swollen face has me wincing out of pity. "I was going to come stay here anyways."
"Okay . . ." I rise from the bed and watch him for a moment. Jace's black hair is matted to his forehead with light sweat. His body is around average build.
He's my height, which is no taller than 5'7". And he gives me the impression he is the quiet type. If I were in my . . . better state, I would find him handsome and totally my flavor of coffee.
"Would you like anything specific?" I ask as I gather my wallet from my bag in the corner.
"I don't really care," Jace replies, shaking his head gently, his eyes sealed shut. "But I'm not going to let you use your money on me . . . Just give me a second . . . turn around."
"Turn around . . .?" "Just do it."
Though he can't actually see me, I raise an eyebrow and turn around. I hear the rustle of the blankets and Jace's gentle grunting.
I am tempted to turn around to see what he might be doing, but before I so much as glance over my shoulder, Jace is calling me.
"Here," he says and I turn around. "You can get me a sandwich. Whatever they have is . . . fine."
Jace is holding out a few twenties and a five to me. It's way too much money to buy a sandwich with.
"I would only need about five of that," I say, gently slipping only the five out of his fingers.
"Take it all," he insists, waving the twenties at me. "Add some extra stuff if you need to, but use all the money. I need to spend every penny I own, okay?"
I sigh and take the money, though I have no idea why he would want to spend every penny. Doesn't he need it to eat? And if he is on his own, doesn't he need it to live?
"I'll bring back whatever is leftover," I say, mostly for my own benefit, as I start for the door. "Don't push yourself too hard. I'll back soon."
Jace grunts in response, and not too happy either. I don't know him that well. I don't know his story. I don't know where he's going.
What I do know is that there is something about him that reminds me of . . . me.