I should go to that coffee shop. I know I should. I read somewhere that you can make friends by regularly going to a place, any place, and talking with the people who are also regulars in said place. The only problem with this process is that I must constantly go somewhere. I gotta get out of bed, put something other than sweatpants on, and drive myself somewhere. All that effort to probably just sit there, dreading actually talking to someone. But like I said, I should so I do.
The coffee shop is on a small corner that’s only 5 minutes from my apartment. The romantic lighting gives the whole place a golden, almost unreal feel to it, even in the daylight. The coffee here is good, the pastries are better. I do my part and sit for about\7
an hour or so. I listen to the gentle music playing in the background of the soft bustle of the coffee shop. I sip a small black coffee and munch a croissant. I don’t even like black coffee, I guess that’s what happens when I don’t think of what I want before I approach the barista. I daydream about talking to the woman in the corner. I’d stride over, and slip into the chair across her, make a joke, ask her if we could be friends. How desperately do I need a friend, someone to talk to. I would take my chances with her, but I don’t stride and I’m not funny. It’s time to go home I tell myself, that’s enough daydreaming for one day.
Back at my building is no different, though. I walk up the stairs thinking of all the times I had walked up hand in hand with Carter. She’s gone now, I must remind myself. Carter had made my life so much better then when she died so much worse. Some days I wish I could just go back to how things were before I met her, before I knew how much life life could have, before I knew what love felt like. Before I knew true happiness. Better yet, I tell myself, I wish she were still here.
I get to my unit and go inside; I look around and sigh at the mess. But there, across the sea of dirty laundry and trash and things placed where they don’t belong was something new. Something I hadn’t seen before. It was a brown package with a tag laying on top of it. The package was fairly large, it took up the half of my kitchen table that wasn’t covered in dirty| dishes. Equally weary and curious, I went to it. Before reading the tag, I looked around my apartment one more time. Is there someone here? How did the package even get here? I turn back to the package, snatched the tag off the top and read “Carter is not who she seems. Open if you don’t believe me.”
For just that moment, it was only me and the tag in the world. Everything else faded away, no light, no sound, just me and the tag. This must be a joke, a sick cruel joke. What type of person would do this to someone? What did I do to deserve this, what did Carter do? I am not going to humor this, I think to myself, and I take the package downstairs to the dumpster.
Trying to sleep is a joke, all I can think of is the package. What did my anonymous sender mean Carter is not who she seems? Who was she then, if not who I know she was? I need to put an end to this wondering. I go downstairs to get the package. Here we are again, I think. The package sitting on my table. Just open it. Put an end to this nonsense. Open it. I can’t, I sit there until 3am staring at the package, thinking of all the possibilities.
Finally, I slam down on the table and stand up. I take a shot of tequila and rip the tape off the top. Deep breath, 1…2…3… I whip the cardboard flaps open and there on the bottom of the oversized box lay a single manilla file labeled Confidential. In the file there are photos of Carter, dressed in all black, sometimes holding weapons, sometimes in disguise. Carter taught preschool, what is all this? There were papers with blacked out lines going over the wording. This doesn’t prove anything; this could be fake. Then, I saw a report written in her handwriting. It read:
“Cover established via marriage and employment. Target suspects nothing…”
I can’t keep reading this. I fly the folder at the wall.
“You shouldn’t do that,” a man’s gruff voice came from the darkness. “You have no idea what I went through to get those.”
“AHHH!! Who are you, get out get out get out!!!” I scream as I start stumbling away, trying to find something to use as a weapon.
“Would you just relax, I’m on your side, Carter was a spy, a CIA agent. She was my partner. But something happened I don’t think she died I think she was taken.” He spoke so calmly, and I wanted to believe him.
“You’re crazy, Carter died four months ago, I was there. Her car flipped so many times no one could have survived that.” I started crying.
“No, she’s alive. I can feel it, but I need your help to get her back.” The man offered me a hand up.
I took his hand and he pulled me up. While wiping my cheeks, wet from the tears, I took a deep breath in “I have no reason to believe you are who you say you are, but I also have no reason not to try to get the love of my life back, even if none of it was real for her, I need to know. What’s the plan?”
TWO DAYS LATER, MIDNIGHT
The man whose name I find out is Jeremy and I sit outside the supposed CIA building. “This is it then, huh?” I have never been good at small talk.
“Yeah, this is it. Remember, we go in there our first job is to find Carter before they find us. She could be anywhere.” Jeremy murmured, still as stone.
We execute the plan perfectly. Going floor to floor with no complications, we ran into not one agent, maybe the universe is finally on my side for something. We get to the 17th room on the 5th floor and it’s not like the others at all. It is a long, narrow room and the only light is a harsh glow at the furthest wall in the room, it looks like monitors of some sort but they are facing away from us so we can’t see what’s on them. “Stay close, I don’t like this” Jeremy didn’t have to tell me that, I felt it too. We made our way down the seemingly endless darkness. When we finally got to the far wall, I realized there were way more monitors than I originally thought. There were at least 50 different screens with 50 different faces in 50 different rooms.
Frantic now, I am searching all the monitors for my Carters face. My heart sinks and my throat tightens. I see her there in her beauty, in her torment. “There she is, now we just have to figure out where ‘there’ is.” I look to Jeremy but his face had changed, he looked smug almost.
“Oh, I know where she is, and now it’s time for you to make a decision. I have this pill here and you’re gonna take it or I’ll make a call and your precious Carter will die.”
I hold out my hand and hold back tears. Anything for my Carter, anything. I just got her back but I’m not strong enough to lose her again. I take the pill and knock out.
I wake up to a chipper “Good morning Mrs. Carter!” I look around, I’ve been here before a clinical bed, a nurse standing above me, a bold 17 on the front of my door. It’s the Cerebral Intervention Alleviation unit of the West Hospital. I’m in the psych ward, I have been this whole time.
“Good morning Jeremy” I say back as he hands me my morning meds.