Stepping under the hot rain, he tilted back his head and let the water wash away the memories that suffocated his mind. Learning to let go of the death of an innocent was harder than anything he'd ever done. It wasn't working.
Jolted by the picture of Tom's dead body lying in his living-room, Alex huddled by the wall of the shower. Looking down at his trembling hands, the pruned tips of his fingers beckoned for him to get out. He had lost track of time. Soaping down, he quickly rinsed and shut down the tranquility. Reaching for the towel that he had thrown on the lid of the toilet, he briskly dried his body and wrapped up. A chill tickled the back of his neck and he shuddered. From the corner of his eye, the flash of a bright light poked his temple with the same precision as an ice pick. Alex grabbed the side of his head and squeezed. Tilting his chin down, he momentarily lost his balance. The vision beside him spiraled with a kaleidoscope of luminous shades of green. Slowly, the ribbon of color etched out to form an opening in the center. The eye of the storm.
Alex squinted, straining to focus on the anomaly. Reaching out, he caught a glimpse of the goosebumps mapping their way over the skin of his forearm. He recoiled his hand to his side. What the hell am I doing? Stepping away, he pressed his back against the door and faced his unwanted guest. In the heart of the calm, stood a little girl. Her chestnut braid caressed down the front of her long white nightgown, masking portions of the pale blue lace trim. Soft brown eyes held the weight of sadness. Both arms stretched out, fully extended, her small hands trying to wriggle closer to him. The child's mouth mimicked the mechanics of conversation, but only silence escaped her pale, pink lips.
"Who are you?" Alex whispered.
The little girl's words fell silent.
"I can't hear you. Can you understand me? If you can, nod your head."
The child nodded yes.
"Are you lost?" Alex inched closer.
Placing her arms by her side, she nodded again.
"Are you in danger?"
Her head turned away.
Alex’s shoulder’s stiffened Not a yes, but not a no either.
"Are you trying to find someone?"
The girl's mouth moved, her lips forming a long trail of silent sentences.
"Whoa. Stop. I still can't hear you." Alex furrowed his brow.
The little girl put her hands up, covering her face.
"Hey, it's okay. I'll figure something out, hold on."
Alex sized up the room looking for anything to aide in their communication. Staring at the half-fogged mirror, his eyes widened. Hastily, he turned the shower back on and twisted the knob until it rested solely on the hot water. Within moments the air thickened and a veil of steam covered the reflective glass. With his pointer finger, he laid out the alphabet across the balmy surface. Turning back toward the child, she was smiling.
"You understand?" Alex pointed to the letters.
Clapping her hands, she nodded yes.
"Okay. I'll ask you a question and then starting with A, I'll point to the letters. You nod to let me know if it's the right one. Good?"
Rapidly, she agreed.
"Let's start with something simple. What's your name?"
Alex pointed to the letters one at a time until he hit H. The girl drew up a hand to indicate stop.
"Okay great. Now let's go to the vowels. A?"
She nodded yes.
Once again, he started pointing. When he reached V, she jumped up.
"Let's see we have, H—a—v... huh. I'm not sure, let's keep going. It's probably another vowel. How about, I?"
She adamantly shook her head no.
"E?" Alex outlined the letters on the bottom corner of the mirror.
The clapped once again
"H—A—V—E... Haven? Is that it? Are you Haven?"
The girl grinned and patted both hands on her chest.
"Nice to meet you, Haven. I'm Alex."
The little girl pointed to her eye.
"Something's wrong with your eyes?"
She closed her eyes and shook her head. First pointing to her eyes again, she then pointed to him.
"Eye? Eye—or wait, I? Haven is it I?" Alex tapped the letter in the alphabet string.
She replied with a nod and pointed to Alex again.
"Hmm. What are you trying to say? I, me, I, Alex, I'm Alex! Haven, you already know who I am?"
Haven shook her head in agreement.
"Did you know me before you died? How do you know me?" Alex fired the questions like bullets.
Without warning, Haven's face dropped, and her body stiffened. Snapping her gaze to peer over her shoulder, she turned back to Alex. Wide eyes and gape mouth—she was screaming.
"Haven. What's wrong? Haven!"
Before the last syllable escaped his breath, she was gone.