Chloe stirred beside me. She murmured wordlessly and nestled her warm body against the coolness of my skin. I had spent a wakeful night, as usual. The events of the previous evening cycled through my mind.
She had emerged from the tightly packed crowd at the corner of Duval and Greene and glommed onto me shortly before midnight. At the stroke of twelve, the throng erupted with cheers, and we kissed. I expected her to move on, but she clung to my arm and pulled me into the nearest bar, where a raucous rock band stirred rowdy patrons into a stomping frenzy.
We sat at the bar where she knocked back a couple of margaritas. I sipped on a beer and planned my escape. However, as the hours crept by, her cuteness began to exert an undeniable appeal. Perhaps the Confederate flag on her t-shirt also intrigued me. That fight had been lost long ago—a fight I had once killed for. It astounded me that remnants of the cause lingered for more than a hundred and sixty years. Though we had barely spoken, we ended up in her room at the Hemingway Motel.
“Jake,” she whispered.
It came as a surprise that she remembered my name. “Yes?”
“I have to go home.”
That was a relief. “Where’s home?”
“Atlanta. I’m in college there. I have to get to Miami for my flight. It’s a four-hour drive.” She rose from the bed and pulled on her jeans. “Let’s keep in touch.”
“Okay,” I lied and reached for my pants.
She smiled cheerfully, donning her red baseball cap. “2020 is off to a great start. It’s going to be a fine year.”
We stepped out into the bright Key West morning, and she drove away with a wave. Chloe’s optimism seemed unwarranted. Though I had no interest in current events, the rising discord in the country could not be ignored. A restless mood stirred within me, and I felt an irresistible urge to return home.
I rang the bell and waited. When the door opened, her appearance stunned me. It had been more than a decade. Deep wrinkles creased her face, and she leaned on a cane. However, her eyes remained sharp, and she recognized me immediately.
“Mr. Wilkins, how nice to see you. You haven’t aged a bit.”
“You look good, too, Mrs. Potts.”
“Don’t lie, Mr. Wilkins. It’s not becoming.” She smiled affectionately. “Come in, won’t you? Have some coffee with me.”
I accepted her offer and told her of my travels. She spoke of the difficulties of aging. It pained me to see her physical decline. The kindness she had shown me years ago still resonated deeply. I listened patiently but eventually came to my question.
“Is your spare room available?”
“Oh, I don’t rent it out anymore. My last tenants were undergraduates. They were awfully loud and kept late hours.” She hesitated and then said, “You know, I’ll make an exception in your case, Mr. Wilkins. I never heard a peep out of you.”
“I’ll be working nights, again. I won’t be a bother.”
I settled into a familiar nocturnal routine, seeking victims for their blood and pilfering cash from drug dealers and other perpetrators of illicit activity. It was easy, and times were good despite an undercurrent of unrest.
A few days after my return, I arrived home at dawn and entered through the back door as usual. Sounds of the TV caught my ear. In the living room, Mrs. Potts shifted her gaze toward me. Worry clouded her eyes.
“Mr. Wilkins, it’s horrible. Those poor people are dying.”
On the screen, a newscaster laid out a story of multiple deaths in a nursing facility on the West Coast. Her sorrow moved me. I laid my hand on her shoulder, and her eyes filled with tears.
“The doctors will get it under control,” I said. “Have you had your coffee?” She shook her head. “I’ll make a pot for you.” I switched off the TV, steered her into the kitchen, and distracted her with small talk.
On an early February morning, I visited Maplewood Cemetery where my mother and Billy lay buried. A century and a half of my relatives lay scattered across the grounds. It’s a strange sensation to stand over graves of kinfolk who lived and died without our paths ever crossing.
I lingered over my mother’s grave. I last saw her on the day I left home to join up. By the end of the war, hard times had done her in. I wished her life had been easier. Billy lay next to her. I still harbored a twinge of guilt for leaving him alone with the farm. At least, he made it work through the tough years. He married well and raised a family.
As I stepped away and brushed the tears from my eyes, a young, redheaded woman waved from several rows away.
“Hold on,” she called. I waited for her. “Were you related?” She indicated Billy’s grave.
“Uh … not sure,” I lied. “I couldn’t locate my mother’s grave.”
“I’m researching my genealogy, and Billy Wilkins was an ancestor of mine. Are we related?”
Damn. I had no desire to get entangled with a distant relative. It had not gone well with Cindy more than a decade ago.
I sought a quick excuse to escape. “Of course not. I got confused. The cemetery is so big.”
She frowned. “You bear a striking resemblance to my cousin.”
“I’m not from around here. My family’s in Georgia.” It wasn’t a total lie. My father lay in the Confederate cemetery near Chickamauga. I hoped that would put an end to the conversation, but the woman persisted.
“My name’s Shannon Holmes. What’s yours?”
“And your last name?”
“Uh, Wilkins. You see, that’s why I’m confused.”
A puzzled expression wrinkled her face.
“My name is Wilkins and the headstone here is Wilkins and I thought my mother was around here … somewhere.” My explanation began to feel weak.
“I think we’re related. Let’s talk. Where are you parked?”
“I don’t have a car.”
She gave me a curious look. A moment of indecision creased her brow. “Mine’s right here. Come with me.”
Even in the daylight with my speed and senses reduced, fleeing would have been easy, but I relented, not wanting to raise suspicions about my nature. As she drove, I felt both attraction and reluctance, just as I had with Cindy more than a decade ago. I silently cursed my weakness. At a coffee shop, I thwarted her attempts to link us. Why was it so important to her?
“Damn, Jake, I was sure we were related. You gotta meet my cousin. You’ll see the resemblance.” She sipped her coffee. “Where do you work?”
“Well … I’m between jobs.”
“Wait. Give me your phone number.”
“My phone’s not working. I need a new one.”
“Where do you live?”
I gave her the address and counted on Mrs. Potts to turn her away. She knew I worked nights. I relied on her not allowing visitors to disturb my daytime sleep. As I departed, I noticed several customers wearing surgical masks—an overreaction to the virus, in my opinion.
I was wrong. The virus exploded into a pandemic and society shut down. It did not concern me. I had not been sick with so much as a bad cold since the summer of 1864, when I caught a chill while crossing the Chatahoochee. However, nighttime outings became more difficult. Even the underworld hunkered down. I resorted to preying on the homeless who had no place to shelter. Their blood sufficed, though its taste was often tainted by drugs and alcohol. Surprisingly, evening church services continued, albeit sporadically. The faithful provided a nice, clean alternative.
I alleviated Mrs. Potts’s fears by wearing a mask and fetching her groceries. She offered to reduce my rent, but I declined, having a substantial amount of cash in reserve. We had coffee together every morning before I retired for my day’s sleep. She worried about her daughter, who lived a couple of hours away.
“I just know Lorraine is not being careful enough. She shares custody of the kids with her ex-husband, and he thinks the virus is a joke.”
How could he believe that? On TV, dire images of overcrowded hospitals flashed across the screen with regularity. “It’ll be okay, Mrs. Potts. Lorraine and your grandchildren are young. They’ll be fine.” I didn’t fully believe it, but soothing her seemed a charitable act.
Businesses had gradually begun to reopen when, in late May, massive protests erupted in the streets. The killing of a black man in Minnesota by police provided the spark. Why now? It had been happening for eons. Counter-protesters decked themselves out in a manner of dress all too familiar. Despite the repugnance of their vile, hateful curses, the flags and uniforms recalled memories of the comradery I had once known. But these men were not my comrades.
Most of my fellow soldiers had been farm boys, like myself. I joined up in the fall of ’63 to help friends and neighbors who had gone before. They were having a bad time of it, we were told. Once assigned to my unit, the day-to-day grind of the war became my sole focus. I thought nothing of slavery. Our family farm was small, and we were poor. Likewise, our neighbors scratched out their living by relying on family and friends to pitch in. Perhaps my father knew the larger issues, though he never spoke of it. “Duty” is what he said when he left in the summer of ’61.
For a week or so, I stood in the alleys and shadows, watching competing forces scuffle night after night. Senseless burning and looting proliferated. Madness. Could a repeat of that brutal, ancient war be on the horizon? I hoped not.
A few days later, I put on my mask and went out as the sun dipped below the horizon. Violence had broken out on the edge of downtown between two opposing groups. The widespread and sporadic nature of the conflict overwhelmed efforts by the police to maintain order. Among the crowd, I spotted Shannon with a movie camera recording the mayhem. She fearlessly approached a big man dressed as a confederate soldier. He spit out a stream of vile curses and shoved her. She staggered into an alley, and he followed. So did I.
With my sharpened vision, I clearly saw them, confronting each other. The man snatched the camera and smashed it to the ground. Shannon slapped him, a bold move considering the difference in their sizes. Curses were exchanged. He struck her and she fell.
I was on him before he knew it. I wrenched his arm, dislocating his shoulder, and stuffed him into a dumpster. Sweeping Shannon into my arms, I fled the scene and set her down in an unlit parking lot, hoping to get away before she recognized me, but she held my arm.
“Did … did you k-kill him?”
“He’ll be fine, but he won’t cause any more trouble tonight.”
A car pulled into the lot. Its headlights flashed across us.
“Jake,” she exclaimed.
I sought a quick exit. “If you’re okay, I’ve—”
“Wait, I’m not letting you escape so easily this time. I’ve tried to see you, but your landlady has been adamant about not letting me in.”
I smiled at the thought of Mrs. Potts stonewalling her. “Look, Shannon … It is Shannon, right? I’ve got to—”
“You’ve lost your mask.” She frowned. “Mine’s gone, too.”
“In the alley, I guess.”
“Come on. I have more in my car.”
Simply fleeing might bring additional curiosity. Besides, she had Mrs. Potts’s address and would likely find a way to contact me. She led me to her car. We sat silently for a moment, listening to the pandemonium in the distance.
“He broke my camera.” Her words conveyed as much sadness as anger.
“Are you a TV reporter?”
“No. I’m shooting footage for a documentary.”
“About the protests? I thought you were doing genealogy research.”
“I can walk and chew gum at the same time.” She pushed up her disheveled red hair. “The protests, they’re a symptom of larger issues. How old are you?”
I could hardly admit my true age. My body had ceased aging at nineteen, but decades of existence gave me the nuanced perspective of an older person. “Twenty-four,” I managed to say.
“You look younger.”
“And you? How old are you?”
“Twenty-three. Just out of film school. Ready to make my mark as a documentary filmmaker.”
“Good luck.” I cracked open the car door. “I have things to do.”
“Wait, Jake. You handled yourself pretty well back there.” She jerked her thumb in the direction of the alley. “Would you be interested in helping with my film?”
“I don’t have any experience. Besides, your camera’s broken.”
“I can borrow one, I think. I’ll use my phone camera if I have to.” She narrowed her focus on me. “Experience is not absolutely necessary. There’s a lot you can learn on the job. Are you working, now?”
I had an answer this time. “I’m a night watchman at a warehouse.”
“So, your days are free.”
“Well, I have to sleep sometime.”
“You must have some waking hours when you’re not working, right?”
Unable to summon a reasonable excuse, I reluctantly agreed. “Okay. Early evening. After sunset is best.”
“Great. I’ll borrow a camera and meet you the day after tomorrow at your place.”
“Let’s make it your place.”
She furrowed her brow but jotted down the address. I left her and prowled the fringes of the protest. It wasn’t hard to get what I needed.
An unfamiliar black SUV in the driveway surprised me. I detected voices from the living room as I entered through the back door.
“Mr. Wilkins, is that you?” Mrs. Potts called out. “Will you come here?” Beside her on the sofa sat a middle-aged woman with a stern presence. “Mr. Wilkins, this is my daughter Lorraine. She’s visiting.”
“It’s nice to meet you. Your mother speaks of you often.”
“Mother says you’ve been helping her.”
“Just doing the groceries and miscellaneous errands.”
“She’s not supposed to be taking in boarders anymore. There are those who might take advantage of her.”
“Oh, Lorraine, Mr. Wilkins is an old friend.”
“Mother, he’s a boarder, not a friend. How old are you, Mr. Wilkins?”
“You look like a kid. How long ago were you here?” Her tone was harsh.
Damn her. I hadn’t been prepared for an interrogation. “It’s, uh … a couple of years.”
“She hasn’t taken boarders for at least a half dozen years.”
Mrs. Potts let out a big sigh. “Let him be. He’s been working all night. He’s never late with the rent, and he helps me. I don’t have to go out for anything.”
Lorraine gave a disapproving shake of her head but held her tongue, and I made my exit. When I arose that evening, it pleased me to discover Lorraine had departed.
“Hold the mic higher, Jake. It’s got to be out of frame.” Shannon focused the camera. “We’re rolling. Tell your story, Kendra … in your own words.”
I lifted the mic, and the young black woman spoke of being fired from her job while white workers with less seniority had been retained. It became impossible to pay rent and she struggled to afford groceries. Fortunately, the government had temporarily forbidden evictions. However, her long-term prospects were dim.
Her story didn’t surprise me. But now, society had begun to take notice. In Kendra’s face, I saw her enslaved ancestors and the long struggle, which brought her a measure of freedom but not true equality. I had witnessed it my whole life, but in a compact moment it—
“Higher, Jake, higher.”
I raised the mic and Kendra continued. After another hour of her testimony, we wrapped the session and went to Shannon’s apartment.
“Glass of wine, Jake?”
Alcohol had no effect on me, but I accepted her offer out of politeness. For several minutes, we sat on her sofa and sipped in silence. No doubt, she replayed Kendra’s story as did I.
She finally leaned forward and placed her empty glass on the coffee table. “It’s that goddamn orange man in the White House. Ugh, I can’t even say his name.”
“Not only him.”
“Yeah, but he brings out the worst in everyone. You’re always calm. How do you manage?” She edged toward me. “The other day in the alley, you were, uh … well, efficient.”
I couldn’t explain the source of my abilities. “It’s my nature, I guess.”
“Another glass, Jake?”
“I’m still nursing the first one.”
She half stood, then sat again, closer this time, and put her hand on my leg.
“Uh, Shannon, don’t.”
“Stay with me tonight, Jake.”
I felt the attraction, too, but I had secrets to protect. “I’m sorry. I can’t.”
I laughed in an attempt to dispel the mood. “No, just tired, and my shift starts soon.” My night watchman lie had been a good choice.
Shannon rose. “Then I guess I’ll have another glass of wine.”
After departing and taking care of my needs, the remainder of the night evaporated in thought. Why did I feel such a strong attraction to my distant kinfolk? And why did they feel it in return? An undefinable connection must exist even over the centuries. Perhaps I should leave and never return home. Yes, I still thought of it as home. It always drew me back during unsettled times. No enlightenment came as dawn approached. With an unusual degree of weariness, I made my way to my room and the serenity that Mrs. Potts exuded.
The pandemic retreated in the summer months, and warnings of a fall surge went unheeded. Mornings passed in the company of Mrs. Potts or running errands for her. I spent occasional evenings helping Shannon. We developed a working relationship but held our emotions at bay. A skinny, geeky guy named Roy began to accompany us. I assumed him to be her lover.
The nation roiled in the chaos of an election year. I tuned out the political noise. However, the personal stories emerging in Shannon’s footage told a compelling narrative. She did not separate the personal from the political. Her insights proved better than mine.
Summer turned to fall, and it became difficult to maintain my natural inclination to stay distanced. Shannon rose to the occasion and threw herself into the documentary. I accompanied her—sometimes helping, sometimes watching and listening to her subjects. Roy usually came along, too. He seemed to regard me with suspicion.
Shannon deserved credit for taking on all aspects of the social unrest. Amazingly, the most angry, incoherent subjects spoke candidly, often with ignorance, in front of the camera. Their own words damned them.
On Election Day, I accepted an invitation to a small gathering at her apartment. As I expected, Roy also attended, wearing a sour expression and avoiding me. The early returns were not promising, and a sense of despair descended upon the assembly. I departed while the evening was still young.
The electoral count had improved by the following day, and verification of the official tally appeared imminent. Then, unfounded claims disputed the results. Why was there so much trouble conducting an election? Had counting become a lost art?
“I’m going to Lorraine’s for the Thanksgiving holiday.” Mrs. Potts’s mood had lightened. “She’s coming for me, but I’ll see you after the weekend.”
“Be careful and wear a mask.”
“Oh, I will. Lorraine’s ex had a brother who died from the virus. He realizes it’s not a hoax, now.”
“That’s a relief. Oh, I meant … not that he died …”
“I know what you mean, Mr. Wilkins.” She patted my arm. “Lorraine will pick me up tomorrow.”
I wished her a happy holiday, though it meant nothing to me. Shannon invited me to spend the holiday with her and Roy. I declined, citing a previous commitment. I don’t think she believed me.
Late on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I had risen for my nightly excursions, when Lorraine’s SUV pulled into the driveway. Even upstairs, the sound of a key in the lock reached my ears.
Before I could slip down the stairs and out the back, Mrs. Potts called, “Mr. Wilkins, are you in?”
“I’ll be right down.” I didn’t want to encounter Lorraine—a hard woman, lacking the generous spirit of her mother—but I joined them in the living room.
Lorraine wasted no words. “Mr. Wilkins, my mother is coming to live with me. She’s frail, and I think the family should be helping instead of her boarder.”
“I don’t mind, and I’ve got the time.”
“How much time do you have? Are you actually working? Are you dealing drugs?”
Mrs. Potts gave a gentle sigh. “Lorraine, leave him alone. He’s the best tenant I’ve ever had.”
“Are you really going, Mrs. Potts?”
“Yes. I’ve been having trouble climbing the stairs. I’m eighty … three—”
“Five,” Lorraine corrected. “Mr. Wilkins, you may stay here until the end of the year, but it would be great if you found another place sooner.”
“I’ll miss you, Mrs. Potts. You’ve been very kind.”
She tottered over and wrapped her arms around me. I returned the hug.
“Okay,” Lorraine said. “I’m staying overnight, and we’ll pack up some things and head out tomorrow. We’ll come for the rest later. I expect the December rent before we go. Can you manage it?”
I nodded and gave Mrs. Potts’s hand an affectionate squeeze. Normally, I preferred solitude but that night, I longed for companionship. After spending hours of walking alone in the darkness, I arrived back as the sun peeked over the horizon. Lorraine had already loaded her SUV. I paid the December rent and claimed a final hug from Mrs. Potts. I slept poorly that day and awoke in the evening to an empty house and a sense of loss which I could not banish.
In mid-December, a vaccine became available, offering hope for the future. The post-election tumult rolled on with an ever-increasing aura of surrealism. I tuned it out as best I could. Astoundingly, shoppers crowded malls and other retail outlets, sometimes wearing masks and sometimes not.
I packed my clothes and moved into a nearby hotel. Traveling light had become my habit. The loneliness I experienced after Mrs. Potts’s departure stayed with me. One afternoon between Christmas and New Year’s, I rang the bell at Shannon’s apartment.
“Jake, I thought you had died,” she said. I refrained from laughing at the unintended joke. “Where have you been?”
“Around.” I related the circumstances of Mrs. Potts’s departure.
“Oh, sorry to hear. I’d offer you my couch, but Kendra’s staying with me until she’s able get on her feet. Have a seat. Want a cup of coffee? Kendra’s making a pot in the kitchen.”
Kendra shuffled in, dressed in pajamas. She smiled at me and settled comfortably next to Shannon.
“So, Jake, Roy and I are going up to DC after the first of the year. Congress is going to certify the election. Protests are planned. We can get some good footage. I’d like you to come, too, if you can take time off work. I’ve booked a room.”
Wasn’t the election over? The votes had been counted and recounted. What more needed to be done? Though it went against my instincts, the curious nature of the never-ending election intrigued me, and I agreed to accompany them.
We drove up on the fifth. I dozed in the back seat for most of the five-hour trip. Upon reaching the hotel, I flopped down on one of the double beds.
“Let’s take a walk around the city,” Shannon suggested.
“The two of you go. I’m going to take a nap. My work schedule makes me sleepy in the daytime.”
When I awoke, night had fallen. They had not returned. Probably having dinner somewhere. I had my own hunger to satisfy. It wasn’t difficult. Out in the city, a fair number of pedestrians wore the Stars and Bars on their caps, jackets, and other apparel. I walked down to the far end of the National Mall and stood before Lincoln—once an enemy, now a legendary and universally admired figure. Where were men like him these days?
At the hotel, I silently eased into bed. Shannon and Roy snored lightly—a duet between lovers. A long day in the sun would be taxing. I slept fitfully but managed a few hours of rest before dawn.
We got out early. I remembered my sunglasses, and we all wore masks. Roy carried the camera, which had been equipped with an attached microphone. The advertised protest had begun to assemble near the White House. Almost nobody wore masks.
Shannon quickly engaged several of the attendees in interviews. Talk of revolution and violence peppered their replies. Rage and emotion drove them. How different they were from the men I served with. Back during the war, we fought not with anger, but with resolve.
The crowd grew rapidly, oddly waving both the Union flag and the Confederate, along with other flags and insignia I didn’t understand. Then speakers took the stage and spouted vile, hateful rhetoric. Around noon, the president appeared and further incited the mob, though his speech lacked proper grammar and his syntax veered between bad and worse. When he concluded, the crowd, now numbering in the thousands, began a march to the Capitol. We tagged along.
Once there, they hurled vulgar and racist epithets at the Capitol police. A man dressed in military camo shoved an officer, and the flood gates opened. The masses overwhelmed the defenders and burst into the building.
“Stay out. Don’t go in,” Shannon shouted over the roar of the assault. She drew Roy and me closer. “Some of them are armed. There might be shooting.”
She continued to interview stragglers who had refrained from invading the building. Most parroted the words they had heard earlier.
Eventually, troops arrived. They slowly cleared the building and as the afternoon wore on, pushed the insurrectionists back. As twilight arrived, we rested on a bench near the Mall.
Shannon spoke wearily. “What a nightmare. It’s a sad day.”
“A civil war, I think,” Roy said.
I could speak with authority on that. “Not so much. There’s no discipline in these rebels. In the 1860s the Confederates had great tactical leaders. Today’s assault … it was more of a disorganized riot with no clear objectives. They took ground but didn’t hold it.”
Shannon heaved a deep breath. “They won’t disappear.”
“Right,” I responded. “They’ll go underground like the radical groups in the 1960s.”
“How do you know?” she asked. “That was before your time.”
Well, it wasn’t. I had seen it with my own eyes. “I’ve read history books.” That was also true.
A scream from the next block interrupted our conversation. With the coming of night, my vision had sharpened. A man was beating a woman. The violence spurred us to action. I ran with the others, taking care to pace myself, so as not to bring questions about my nature.
The man pulled a handgun as we approached. I struck his wrist, and the weapon skidded along the sidewalk. He sensed my power and fled. I could have caught him immediately, but I let him run for a couple of blocks. When I overtook him, he flashed a knife, which I took from him. Fear widened his eyes, and he sputtered unintelligibly. I gave him a vicious laugh and broke his leg. I left him there, groaning in pain, and rejoined the others.
Shannon knelt by the woman. “She needs medical attention. Help me get her up.”
As soon as I touched her, I knew who she was. And she knew me.
“Yes, Chloe, it’s Jake.”
Shannon shot me a questioning glance.
I pretended not to notice. “Are you able to walk?”
“Yeah. I’ve got bruises, but nothing’s broken, I think. I don’t want to go to the hospital.”
I helped her stand. “Do you have a place to stay?”
“Yes … No. I can’t go there. I thought I was being patriotic … I don’t know what’s right anymore.”
Shannon hugged her. “Come with us. We’ll make room for you. You can bunk with me. Roy and Jake will have the other bed.”
Shannon’s solution held no appeal for me. I’m sure Roy felt the same. Besides, the chaotic day had drained my energy.
I spent the night hunting down insurrectionists to satisfy my hunger. When I showed up at the hotel in the morning, Shannon and Roy were preparing to depart.
“Where the hell have you been?” Shannon asked. A touch of jealousy colored her words.
“I couldn’t sleep. It’s my regular working schedule.”
She turned to Chloe. “I’ll give you a lift to Atlanta.”
“I’ll go with her if she wants,” I offered. For some undefinable reason, I felt a responsibility to see her safely home.
Chloe smiled. “Yes. That would be nice.”
Shannon frowned, and Roy looked relieved.
We piled into Shannon’s car and headed south. She clutched the wheel and blew out an exasperated sigh. “2020 was a long damn year. I feel like it’s still going on. Sometimes a year is longer than a year.”
I silently agreed. For me, 1864 came to mind. It extended all the way to April of ’65.
I stayed with Chloe for two weeks. Her semester began with virtual classes, which occupied most of her waking hours. I managed to slip out for “a breath of air” in the evenings while she studied. We found a few intimate moments in our incongruous schedules. A genuine affection grew between us, though neither expected a long-term relationship.
Chloe switched on the TV for the inauguration. The overblown spectacle of the ceremony failed to excite me, but the young poet’s words moved me in ways I couldn’t express. I thought of Kendra and hoped she had been watching.
The time had come to move on. “I have to go now,” I informed Chloe.
“Okay. I’ll miss you. You saved my ass. I’ll never forget it. I was wrong, but I don’t know what to believe now.”
“You’ll figure it out.”
“I hope so. 2021 has to be a better year.”
“We’ll see,” I said, wishing she were right, but fearing the old struggle had begun anew.