Masked by Design - Chapter Thirteen

Kristine didn’t have a clock. 

Now as she stood there in her sepia guest house she realized she did not have a clock.

Back before her parents died, back before Meg’s mother died, back when she wasn’t a permanent guest, but was permanent, everyone had a clock.

Erik had several clocks around his home, from an ornate grandfather clock downstairs to a sleek gold and chrome clock that had the old fashioned numbers that turned over to mark the time.

She, however, did not have a clock.  Nothing to mark the time, nothing to say she was in synch with the rest of the world.

The only time piece she had was on her phone, or on her tv, a simple digital read out, nothing she had to keep track of, wind or adjust, it just happened.

Exactly how that text just happened.

She stared down at her phone on the floor.  The damn thing had the audacity to be lit up with the time as well as the message in a non descript square that Erik sent.

Without touching the device she bent down.  It was only two minutes since the message came through, that’s what the time said, but the time also said only an hour ago she was kissing him.

Somehow everything felt like it happened years ago.  

Or maybe it happened a second ago.

Maybe the reason that no one had clocks anymore is that time didn’t matter.  It was just an arbitrary tick of a moment.

Her whole body went numb, and she didn’t know how it was possible, but she was both hot and cold at the same time.

Even with Erik’s words seared in her brain, she still didn’t want to physically see the message again.  She kicked her phone across the room and didn’t even bother to see where it ended up.

Did she need to know the time?

Did she have someone to call?

Did she need to check her email?

Did any of it even matter?

With those questions reeling over and over in her mind, she forced herself to stand up straight and allow the answers to come to her. 

Did she need to know the time?  No.  She did not need to know the time.  Where only yesterday she needed to know the time of when she had to get to Erik’s or when a class would begin or end, right now the only time she needed to know next was that of her exam.

Did she have someone to call?  No again.  No one to call.  Obviously she wouldn’t call Erik which somehow seemed to put Trevor off limits as well.  She could call Meg, but her best friend, the woman she felt was her sister rarely answered as they were always on different time zones.  While Meg wanted her to come on a trip this summer, she could never even talk to her long enough to get the details or make the arrangements.

Did she need to check her email?  Once more the answer was a resounding no.  Aside from junk mail, all she would have was notifications about her school that was rapidly coming to an end.

She paced around the guest house.  What was she thinking?  She spent all this time in school and then didn’t plan the next step, didn’t get a job or have one lined up.   In all of the hours of studying she brushed off the fact there would be an end.  For the first time in her life she was going to give herself a break.

Then Erik happened and there was a light.

Now with one message she realized how totally and absolutely pathetic she had become.

She had no friends, no job, no future, no family.

The most she had was this guest house with the people who never lived here, the small pay she received for keeping her eye on the place and the tiny bit of inheritance she had from when Meg’s mother passed away.

In essence, she was alone and she was nothing.

Nothing with some schooling to build herself a life.

Well, as she was taught over and over again, in order to make something you had to start with something and she had nothing.

The walls seeming to close in on her and her chest tight, she snatched up her keys and handbag and dashed out the door, stopping right when the automatic lights flipped on at her sudden movement.

There with the spotlight on her, she realized she had nowhere to go.

She stared up at the main house.  When she first moved in she hoped to make friends with the couple who lived there, hoped they had children, hoped for a space.

No sooner had she moved in than the couple took off on one of their many trips, and there were no children to light up the property.  In essence she had moved into a little bungalow next to what would probably be the world’s largest closet for two people who most likely didn’t appreciate what they had.

A breeze brushed over her and she walked around the house, a big white square.  The was obviously renovated to be more in style with the times, but it was as if underneath the stucco one could see the vintage home trying to emerge.  Until now she never really noticed because the house was just there.  

Strange how she never studied where she lived, but she could make out every last feature of Erik’s incredible home.

She stepped up closer to the home and stared at a crack in the veneer coated over the house.

Without even thinking, she took her fingernail and picked a piece of the plaster off the home, then another and another until she exposed a bit of brick.

Did they really cover up brick so they could fit in with everyone else?  Why?

Erik would have never stood for such a travesty.

Never.

In fact, if this moment in time were happening only a bit earlier she would have called him to tell him about this mess and they would have conversed on the horrible mess the owners made.  

Of course then again was the trick of time.  Yesterday at this time she would have called.  Today, Erik was off limits.

How did one rotation of a planet make such a difference?

She shook her head.  There was only one person on the planet who could answer that question.  Only person who would understand the brick.

Damn if she wasn’t going to get the answer.

She wasn’t going to be defined by one second where a message flashed on her phone.

Who said time had to rule her?

Who said everything had to be as impersonal as this big blob in front of her?

Yes, she could call, but right now her phone was under some appliance, and she wouldn’t stoop to that level.

If he wanted be rid of her, he could face her.

Face her.

She balled her hand in a fist.  Was it the mask?

He didn’t understand.

Well, it was time for a lesson for her tutor.

Car keys in hand, she got right back into her vehicle and forced the poor thing to rumble back to life.

Her goal firmly in mind, she gripped the steering wheel until her hands ached as she sped back to Erik’s.

Though she was sure she ran a stop sign and her car bounced when she miscalculated the turn into Erik’s driveway and she went over the curb, she continued on until she braked right in front of the entrance.

  

Yes, only hours before she was on the other side kissing him.  She wanted to make the time between then and now disappear.

Her heart beating as fast as his fingers traveled over the piano keys the night he took her into the music room, she got out of the car and pounded on the door.

Nothing.

The lights were on, the house was alive, but no one answered.

She wasn’t going to take this.

Once more she slammed her hand into the door until it stung and then hit the doorbell, instantly regretting her actions when she remembered it was a vintage piece.

Knowing he could see her, she stepped back, looked up to where she deemed a camera would likely be and held out her arms.  “Face me!”

Her voice echoed through the night and finally the door opened.

There stood Erik, his hair messy, not combed back in its perfectly coiffed state, his shirt wrinkled and with a black mask.  What made him change?  What was wrong?

She put her hands on her hips and waited.

“Is this what you wanted to see?” he growled the question.

Her answer was a tilt of her head.  She couldn’t speak, just the sight of him made her stomach tense, her body heat. 

“Very well then.”  He went to close the door.

Before he could shut her out, she put her foot in the door jamb.  “Face me.”  It was about time.

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