Kelly Flowers

writer

Book Excerpt: Gone Dark

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The knock at the door made Aiden jump. It seemed like he had barely closed his eyes. But when he looked toward the blackout curtains, a shard of light was breaking through. The knock came again. 

“No thank you!” he yelled. Did the housekeeper not see the Do No Disturb hanger on the door? 

“Um. Hello?” Aiden sat straight in bed. It was the voice from the machine last night. No. This time it really was Sam.

“Hold on!” he yelled and pulled himself to stand. “Just give me a minute. It’ll just be a second.” His brain was fogged and slow.

He reached for the khaki shorts neatly folded over the back of the desk chair and then shook his head. The mirrored closet door opened easily, hit the wall and rebounded slightly. He knew he’d be hot in the jeans he grabbed from his suitcase but he didn’t care. He popped a shirt off its hanger and when he closed the closet door, his reflection surprised him. 

In the low light, he looked older, more angry. He looked like his father. 

The shirt wasn’t even over his head before he reached for the chain on the door. 

“Sorry,” Sam said looking him over nervously. “I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

Aiden looked at the bedside table. The clock read 9:14. 

“It’s fine,” he said. “I was up a little late. Um.” He looked around. “Do you want to come in?”

Sam shrank slightly. “Yeah. I guess.” 

He held the door for her and she hesitated as she stepped into the dark room.

“Hold on,” he said. Pinning the door open with the chair, he walked to the curtains. When he opened them, the day was thick with sunshine. The heat of it hit him in the face and burned his eyes.

When Aiden turned back to the door, he almost gasped. She was beautiful, standing there in the light. Her skin was the color of soap; her hair wavy and fluid like desert sandstone.

He stared at her, like he did when she was a baby. He’d forgotten how he’d felt back then, overwhelmed with love. It was overwhelming now, dizzying. He remembered feeling like Sam was his, like he was supposed to be her brother, a predestined decision. 

It was only when Sam looked away, that he realized he was making her uncomfortable. 

“I tried to call,” she said. “But the number you gave me goes straight to voicemail.”

Aiden walked to the desk and picked up his cell phone. He couldn’t remember the last time he forgotten to charge it. It was part of his routine. But it was dead. 

In a stupor, he stared at the phone. It felt confusing, like his life was out of sequence, out of control. “I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow. Brenda left a message on the hotel phone that she needed to get…” 

“She’s not here. I came alone.”

“Oh.” 

Sam looked around the room, her eyes landing on the print of the coastline above the bed, then looking at the unmade bed beneath it. Aiden felt suddenly self-conscious. 

“Here.” Aiden grabbed the chair and the door closed. Sam watched until it latched and then turned back to him, her eyes wide enough to see how green they were. That was the color of his father’s eyes. Of his eyes.

“Have a seat. I think there’s a coffee pot in the bathroom. It’s probably terrible but I’ll make some.” Aiden weaved around the chair to the bathroom.

“No thanks.” Sam shrugged when he looked at her. “I don’t like coffee.”

Once in the dark of the bathroom, Aiden leaned over the sink. He thought about the prescription in his kitchen drawer at home. Celexa. He’d read it so many times, he’d googled it again and again, even printed the fact sheet about it. Dr. Bristol insisted it would help with the onset of the disease, whenever that happened. He had rewritten the prescription at every visit, after which Aiden had placed it in the drawer with the others. His father was on a cocktail of drugs and he felt that if he started, it was a freight train to the same fate. But he could use something to calm him now. If not an anti-depressant, maybe something for anger, for anxiety.

“Are you sure?” Aiden hollered to Sam. “It’s some flavored kind.” He was stalling. 

“No thanks.” 

If he could just stay calm enough to talk to her. He filled the single serve coffee pot with a mug of water and then ran the tap, holding his wrists under it. That helped sometimes. But the water was barely cold. He didn’t want to be angry like his father. He wanted to talk to her without her running away.

“Does Brenda know you’re here?” The question was meant as conversation but the moment he said it, he knew it sounded accusatory. “I mean, did she ask you to come?” He shook his head, frustrated with himself. The coffee hadn’t finished dripping but he grabbed the mug and walked out of the bathroom, as the coffee maker hissed with the last drips.

Sam looked down when he walked in the room. “No,” she said. “I didn’t tell her.”

Aiden scanned the room for a place to sit and finally sat on the edge of the unmade bed. He looked at Sam and nodded. She looked skittish. 

“It’s ok,” he said.

Sam didn’t look up but he could see her smile. 

“I’m sorry about before. This whole thing has been…” Aiden searched for the words. Screwed up. Infuriating. A joke. “…Complicated. It’s been complicated.”

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