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By BRANDIE LAGARDE
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Brandie Lagarde
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Sleep was one of the things I usually looked forward to the most-an escape, really. It was a learned practice, as I wasn't created to need rest, but time had become something difficult to pass with each new century. I longed mostly for something new-but what, I had no idea. What would be new to me? I had tried many professions since deciding to live among the people, but favored those which served them the most. That was the only real happiness I could ever hope for.
My thoughts drifted to the reason for my decision to leave my Father's service, and the familiar pain and anger filled me. I knew that sleep would elude me again. Deciding to abandon the idea, I got up and stood in front of the expanse of windows that made up the back wall of my bedroom, looking out into the small stretch of woods that separated my house from the others on this block. I was always searching and waiting for one of the others to come, and I questioned my decision yet again. The image of Uriah slaughtered on the battlefield at King David's order, while I stood unseen and powerless to help him, flooded my thoughts. I was again filled with anger and disbelief that I had been ordered to not intervene. Uriah had been an honorable man who was completely devoted to the service of King David, and King David had used this devotion against him. He sinned greatly against Uriah by taking his wife and sending him to the front lines of battle, where he would certainly be killed.
What had been the purpose in giving me such a gift, in sending me to the battle, but not allowing me to change the outcome? Uriah's only crime was that he possessed what King David coveted, and my Father had allowed this atrocity to happen before my eyes. In that moment, I had walked away, vowing to myself never to use my gift again.
My cell phone rang, bringing my thoughts to the present. "Hello?" My voice sounded clear in spite of just coming off a twenty-four-hour shift at the hospital.
"Dr. Ages, I'm so sorry," the woman on the line said. "I know you've only been home a few hours, but there has been a bus accident and we're calling all available ER personnel to come help out."
"That's okay, I'm on my way." If she only knew just how little sleep I actually required, she would understand that no apology was necessary.
I was dressed in record time and pulling into my assigned spot at the hospital's parking lot when the first of the ambulances arrived. My heart raced as I helped to open the back doors.
"Sorry, Doc, this one didn't make it. Why don't you go meet the next one coming? I have this," the EMT said, already pulling the poor soul toward the ER doors. He was right-someone else could call time of death and bring the body to the morgue.
After hours of triaging one patient after another, only six precious lives had been lost. There were forty-eight people on the bus, so I knew I should be happier it wasn't worse. But the car that ran across the I-12 median and crashed head-on into the bus had carried two people, both of whom were killed instantly. I just hated to lose even one.
"We can't save them all, Nathaniel. Go home and get some much-needed rest. I'm still on for the rest of the night," Dr. Stevens said, as he patted my back affectionately. "Are you all set for your trip?"
I was headed to India in a few days on a working mission to serve in a small clinic. I was always on the move, as I couldn't stay in one place for too many years.
"Yes. I leave on Tuesday, and I'll be gone for at least a month, unless they need me longer." I might as well set up my exit story. I would truly miss most of my colleagues here-this was probably why I was so restless earlier. I would be back one day, but they would all be gone. I had learned not to get too emotionally involved with people; it only made leaving painful. This was my choice for my life, and this life was my punishment. I had learned to be content with how I lived it. There were the occasional inquiries for my service, though I never gave Lucifer any reason to hope for a change of heart after all this time. Still, he continually tried to manipulate me into his service. One more reason not to get too close to people: for their own safety. There was nothing that Lucifer was beneath doing to get what he wanted.
"You will be missed, son." Jim called me this on occasion. In his existence, he was thirty years my senior and placed himself in a father-teacher role in our relationship.
"I'll miss you also, Jim. You have been more than a friend to me."
"Won't you miss any of the ladies who seem to find a way to be in the same room as you, even when it's not their patient they're assisting?" A sly smile escaped his lips. He had been trying to set me up for years. "I can't seem to find a nurse when I need one, yet you trip over them."
"I guess I just haven't been as lucky as you. Linda is a prize. Maybe I'll try to steal her away from you."
Jim chuckled. "You can try. I don't know if she's the cougar type, but she might make an exception for you."
I just laughed and gave him a pat on the back. "I don't think you need to worry about that; she's devoted to you. I'll call when I get there."
"Okay, Nathaniel, have a safe trip." He waved and rushed back to the nurses' station, where he was being paged.
I headed out into the cool, clear night, thinking it was nice weather for a run. Not that the weather really had an effect on me, but it was unusually cool for south Louisiana, which meant there wouldn't be many runners around Southeastern University. There was a great course around the small school-a favorite of the people because of its convenient location, which was almost in the middle of town.
I smiled as I approach my newest acquisition, a sleek black Lexus, completely loaded. I usually liked them with more speed, but this helped me to fit in better. My favorite was my classic '69 Camaro-an indulgence, really, just like my home that bordered the golf course on the east side of town. These things were just what was expected of a young, single doctor in this era, and I was an expert in the field of fitting in. I was expected to date also, and I did sometimes, when I felt someone was making too many advances toward me. No one had ever held any interest for me, nothing long-term for sure. I guess I still held to the rules of old, some of them. Maybe that was part of it; but if I did defy the old ways, what could I ever offer anyone?
The Lexus slid quietly into its parking spot, as my inside lights turned on with the press of a button. I loved the way technology had advanced, but I did sometimes miss the quiet of the days before electricity. The advances in medicine and health were extremely helpful, and for that I was grateful.
I decided on some running shorts rather than something warmer. At the last minute, I grabbed a long-sleeved shirt just in case anyone looked at me oddly and headed back out the door for the short drive to the college. My mind was going over my upcoming trip, wondering if all the medical supplies I had sent ahead had made it there yet. I resolved to call the director of the mission organization in the morning to make sure.
I found a spot to park in easily enough-it was, as I thought, too cold for most people who grew up in this warm climate. There were a few people milling around campus, but it was kind of late for too much activity.
I put in my earbuds and turned my Ipod's volume up high. It didn't matter; I would still hear everything around me. I just needed the reminder to stop, as it took days for me to grow physically tired while running. People would notice.
It wasn't as though I needed to keep in shape. My body was in perfect condition and would always be. It was how I was created, a perpetual thirty-three year old; it would never change no matter how much or how little I exercised. I ran because it was one of the few human activities that I had found to be enjoyable.
I began at a very brisk pace and allowed my senses to take in my surroundings. The crisp air pumping into my lungs kept time with the sound of my feet hitting the pavement. I was rounding the corner on the south side of the campus where the lighting was dim (according to human perception, that is) when I heard the sound of two people struggling. There was a muffled female voice crying out for someone to stop, then a deep, throaty voice ordering her to shut up. I stopped, pulled my earphones off and took a few steps off the path. I saw in the distance that a man was pulling a small-framed woman in between two buildings.
My heart jumped, then my protective senses took over. I was upon them in seconds and was reaching for the man when he suddenly turned. I saw that the knife he held was already at her throat. Her pale blue eyes were wild with fright, and she looked at me, pleading desperately through her tears. I had never in all my years seen eyes with such depth and clarity. They spoke her thoughts, her secrets and her fear.
I did the unthinkable. I calmly spoke to her assailant. "You want to let her go and turn yourself in to the police."
The man slowly released her, and then walked quickly away, still holding his knife. I had no doubt as to where he would go next.
I couldn't take my eyes from hers. She was standing still and her eyes spoke fear, but there was also puzzlement and shock. We stood there for what seemed like an eternity, staring at each other. My mind was reeling, questioning what I had done. Why did I do it? What to do now?
She ended the moment by suddenly rushing her small body at mine. I was momentarily thrown off-guard, a first for me. Her arms wrapped around me and she began weeping uncontrollably. I stood there with her clinging to my waist, her face pressed into my chest. My arms were flung out wide at my sides, because the warmth of her touch was like fire. My instincts screamed at me to flee, but my mind said to stay.
She abruptly pushed herself away from me, but continued to hold tight onto my shirt.
"Why would he do what you told him to?" Her eyes bore into mine, demanding an answer.
Her eyes and touch did nothing to me compared to her voice. I was stunned speechless. What was happening to me? I had to get away so that my mind could work. I suddenly shoved her arms down to break the grip she had on my shirt. She fell to the ground as I spun around and ran quickly away from her. I could only imagine the questions she had now, but escape was my only coherent thought. A few minutes later, I was sitting in my car, across the campus, trying to understand what had just happened. My only conclusion was that she was sent as some test or trick. It wouldn't have been the first time.
Lucifer had used every means he could to try to lure me into his service, and I had been all but immune to his tactics. In all the years of roaming this shadow land, I had never once used my gift. How could this inconsequential woman-child cause this emotional reaction; how could she spur my defenses and bring to the surface all the things I had so carefully buried deep inside?
Once I was back at my car, I decided to drive by the scene to see what was happening-I wouldn't be recognized with the dark tint of my windows. I pulled into a small bank located across the street near where the incident had happened and scanned the outbuildings and shrubbery. I spotted her immediately.
There didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary about her. She looked shaken and a little afraid as two men about her age approached her, but she was anything but ordinary. I was instantly drawn to her and had to fight the urge to rush to her side.
One of the men, the taller one, put his arm around her waist to offer his support. I pulled my inside door handle off. I was unaware my hand even had been on it. The other man pulled out his cell phone-to call for the police, no doubt. That was what a sane, thinking individual did in such a situation.
What was I doing? I was running and hiding like some coward. Slowly, I put my car in gear and drove away. I couldn't wait to get on that plane Tuesday.
I could hear someone talking to me, asking me something.
"Ma'am, are you all right?" a man's voice asked. Then:
"Call 911, Josh! Something is definitely wrong. She seems pretty out of it!" the voice commanded urgently.
"Okay," another man answered.
I realized that the voices were speaking about me, to me.
"I'm okay, I think," I said, a little shakily. "I was attacked-at least, he tried to attack me. He was pulling me over there." I pointed behind me.
"Did you see where he went?" the first man asked, scanning the area around us.
"No, he just left. He had a knife, he put it to my throat, but then he just left." Why wasn't I telling everything? I was shaking all over, as the full realization of what had happened hit me.
"My name is Logan, and this is my friend, Josh," he said. "We were walking by when we saw you sitting here. Maybe he heard us and ran off."
"Maybe." Why was I agreeing? I knew what had really happened. "Did you see anyone else here-a man with dark hair, tall, wearing running clothes? I think he helped me first, but then he was gone." I couldn't understand how he could disappear that quickly, or why he would leave after saving my life.
I saw them glance at each other, and then both men shook their heads. Maybe they thought I was seeing things.
"I hear the police coming," Josh piped up. "I'll go out to the road and show them where we are." He turned and jogged a few feet, waving his arms to catch their attention.
"Are you sure you're not injured, ma'am?" Logan asked with real concern, still holding on to me.
"Call me Kate. I'm sure I'm doing better, thanks." I took an unsteady step away, and he reluctantly let me go, but kept one hand on my back just in case.
Josh was running toward us, followed by campus security, who began questioning me and insisted I sit down until the ambulance arrived. I hated all the attention and tried to refuse medical attention, but everyone insisted that I go get checked out. Logan offered to ride with me. I tried to refuse, but he insisted. He held my hand, and I grudgingly had to admit that his presence had a very calming effect. My parents met us at the ER, and after being poked, prodded, and thoroughly questioned, I was finally released.
"Thank you, young man, for helping my little girl. I shudder to think what might have taken place if you and your friend didn't happen upon her. I'll be forever indebted to you both," my father told Logan, shaking his hand.
"You're welcome, sir. I was glad to be in the right place at the right time," Logan answered my father, although I was certain he was speaking for my benefit-he kept his eyes on me the whole time. "Kate, I'm so glad that you are okay. I guess I'll head out now. Josh called, and he should be pulling in the parking lot to pick me up. He told me to wish you well for him."
"Please tell him thank you from me, and thank you, also. You have done so much and I really appreciate it." I was feeling a little self-conscious from the whole ordeal, and I was sure it showed in my face.
Logan smiled. "I was hoping I could get your phone number, and maybe call you later, just to make sure you're all right. It would take a load off of my mind."
He and my parents were staring at me, waiting for a response. I could feel my face flush. "Oh, of course you can," I stammered, quickly giving him the number. He saved it in his cell.
"Thanks, Kate. I look forward to speaking with you again. Please stay safe." Logan told my parents good-bye and walked to the exit.
My mother immediately began fussing over me again. "Kate, I insist you come and stay with me and John, at least for the night, so I can make sure you're fine."
"Mom, I'm fine now," I insisted. "I just really want to get to my own home, take a hot bath and start putting this whole horrible experience behind me." I hoped that I sounded calmer than I felt.
"Grace, leave her alone. If she wants to go to her place, she can. I'll bring her and make sure she's settled and safe." My father grabbed my hand to help me up and began pulling me toward the door.
"Bill, I don't know why you always take control of every situation. Don't you think Kate can make up her own mind about where she stays?" Mom reached out to take hold of my other hand.
Excerpted from Nathaniel AGES by BRANDIE LAGARDE Copyright © 2010 by Brandie Lagarde. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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