The Choice – a short story

Sometimes, I wish I could go back to a simpler time in my life. Not that my life was ever really simple, but at least I wasn’t deciding the fate of the world. 

I didn’t ask for this, but what would you do? What would you do if you stood at the fork in the road knowing if you went left millions would die and if you went right millions would live, but it would cost you something? Could you pay the price? Would you be willing to pay the price?

It’s been a while since I’ve told my story.  I’m not sure why I feel the need to share it now, but maybe it’ll help explain some of the choices I’ve made. They were never easy. Still, I did what I had to. In the end, I hope I made the right ones. There’s only one that I question, but I can’t change that now.

I remember reaching for a book…

I stood on the tip of my toes on a small stool reaching for a book on the top shelf. I knew I should have asked for help, but I wanted to get it myself and that’s when I lost my balance and fell backwards. I didn’t think anyone was behind me, but there he was catching me before I fell down.

“Thank you,” I said to my rescuer. He reached up and grabbed the book for me. Where was he a few moments ago when I could have used his help? Not that I would have asked for it, but the thought passed my mind.

“You’re welcome.” His voice was soft, but unmistakably accented. I swear I could stare into his brown eyes forever. I didn’t notice his mouth moving until he looked away from me breaking the trance I was in. “Are you okay?”

“Yes, thank you,” I replied. His lips curled into a smile. It took a moment, but I finally snapped out of my daze. I outstretched my hand to him. “Hi, I’m Lisa.”

“Steve. Nice to meet you, Lisa.” He took my hand and shook it firmly. My brother always told me you could tell a lot about a man by the way he shook your hand. The ones that take your hand and kiss the back of it only want to get into your pants. The way Steve shook my hand meant he respected me.

“Nice to meet you, Steve,” I replied and smiled back until I read the clock above his head. “Oh no!”

“What’s wrong?” He looked around to find the source of my distress, couldn’t find it, and turned back to me.

“I’m going to be late to class,” I groaned. The books I’d found would have to be checked out later. This stranger I’d just met would have to remain a stranger; I didn’t have time continue our conversation. It was a shame, but the professor did not tolerate tardiness and attendance was a requirement for his class. “Thank you, again,” I said hurriedly and walked as fast as I could until I was outside of the library, then I ran across the courtyard to the lecture hall. I found my seat, breathed a sigh of relief that I had made it in time, and tried to focus on the professor’s words as he expounded on the nuances of Native American culture.

Who was I kidding? I couldn’t focus on anything other than my rescuer, Steve. My fingers moved across the page and when I finished, I realized I didn’t have notes. Instead it was a picture of my rescuer’s face. I kicked myself realizing I didn’t have any way of seeing him again. 

When class dismissed, I collected my notebook and went back to my dorm. My brother, Quan, was picking me up for dinner in an hour. He said he wanted to celebrate and that I should wear something nice.

When he texted me to tell me he was downstairs, I checked my reflection in the mirror. I wore a nice fitted dress with the stilettos he bought for me a few weeks ago.

He kissed me on the cheek before he opened the door for me.

“Don’t you look nice,” he complimented. I smiled and sat down in the passenger seat of his latest sports car. “How was class?”

I rolled my eyes and groaned. He knew I didn’t care for my Native American culture professor. When I tried to point out an error in one of his lectures, the man told me to come back when I had a Ph. D. in the subject. From that point, I decided to leave it alone. I had to much on my plate.

“So how’s business?” I asked as he drove.

“Very good.” Quan became a successful businessman a few years after our parents died. He struggled to keep us clothed and fed when I was still in high school, but then he started working for an insurance company. It didn’t take him long to advance in the ranks and become one of their best agents.

He told me we were going to dinner to celebrate his latest accomplishments and some of his associates would meet us for dinner. As our server delivered the bread basket, he asked me how school was going.

“Good, even though I’m taking 16 credits the work isn’t that hard. I was actually thinking of taking on an internship this summer. Is your company looking for interns?”

“Sis, you know I can’t do that.”

“I wasn’t asking for a hookup, I wouldn’t even go for the same department.” He waved his hand. At first I thought he was waving me off, but he was actually motioning for his guests. I was too busy looking down in disappointment to notice when they arrived.

“Sean, Steve, this is my sister, Lisa.” I looked up and smiled. I couldn’t believe my eyes, here was my rescuer from earlier. The two were identical twins, but I was able to tell which one I had already met. My brother looked between Steve and myself. “Have you two met?”

“Umm, yes, we met at the library today,” I told him. He raised an eyebrow, but didn’t pursue the matter.

“Hi, I’m Sean,” my rescuer’s twin said as he held out his hand for me to shake. His grip was also firm, but, of course, he’d be respectful in front of my brother.

“It’s nice to meet you, Sean.”

“Shall we,” Quan motioned for them to sit down.

We ate dinner with most of the conversation between my brother and his associates. I didn’t speak up until I heard my name.

“Lisa, what are you studying at the university?” Sean asked. Even though they were identical certain features set them apart including their voices. Wherever they were from, Steve’s accent was stronger than Sean’s.

“I’m majoring in accounting.”

“So you like math or you like counting money?” Sean smiled as he waited for my answer.

“Math,” I said to which he raised his eyebrows. It was true, I enjoyed the way math just made sense. Especially after our parents died, I found comfort in the absolutes and the unchanging rules of math.

Steve didn’t speak much to me, which was disappointing, but I understood. If he was an associate of my brother’s, it wouldn’t be good to flirt with his sister.

“Are you joining us at the club later?” Again Sean was the one that asked me a question.

“Am I?” I asked my brother. He hadn’t mentioned going to the club. I was old enough, but my brother was very protective.

“Sure.” He must have been in a good mood.

We found ourselves in the VIP section relaxing until the latest song from Jay-Z came on. The twins looked at each other then excused themselves to the dance floor. I decided to watch them from the balcony.

It was then I realized they had an X gene. It’s a weird concept to explain, but I’ll try. Years ago, scientists announced they discovered an anomaly in the human genome. Certain individuals possessed something called an “X gene”. It affected people differently. I had the ability to see certain parts of a person’s future. My brother could persuade people. I figured it helped in his line of work, which was why he was successful. The way Steve and Sean moved, it appeared their X gene gave them the ability to move very fast. They only used a fraction of their ability when they danced, but to me it was obvious. In addition to their ability, they also had a unique way of dancing to the music.

I fell for a stranger that night and we hadn’t spoken more than a few words to each other. I returned to my dorm room in a daze wondering if I would see him again.

I did. It was at the cafe on campus. I sat down to eat my lunch and read the text my philosophy professor assigned.

“Is this seat taken?” I recognized his voice immediately. Even though I had heard him speak so little, the quality and the tone were imprinted in my mind. I smiled as I looked up from my book and shook my head.

He sat down in the seat across from me. He had a textbook as well.

“I didn’t know you were a student here,” I said surprised.

“I’m auditing a course. What are you studying for now?”

“Philosophy.”

“But you’re an accounting major.”

“I like to learn about different subjects. I think it’ll make me more well rounded.” He chuckled and normally I would have been offended, but I didn’t find it to be rude.

Over the next few weeks, we ran into each other from time to time. Sometimes we would walk together and talk and other times we’d sit down in the cafe. Our conversations were always pleasant, but sometimes we would find ourselves silently enjoying each other’s company. On the outside looking in, it may have seemed strange. I just found his presence soothing. He always brought calm with him.

That is until the day he found me in the library. His expression was distressed and I knew whatever he had to say wasn’t going to be good news.

“Come with me.” I didn’t question him, I packed my things and tried to match his stride. I had never been in his car, but I buckled myself in without any hesitation. He sped off to the police station. On the way, he explained my brother was arrested. His lawyer arrived to give him counsel and it was during the lawyer’s visit that I’d be able to see him until they sent him to the county prison.

“What happened?” I asked as soon as I entered the room. He didn’t look right.

“I don’t know, Sis. I think they injected me with something when they handcuffed me,” he explained, then whispered, “I can’t use my ability.”

“What are they charging him with?” I looked at his lawyer.

“They’re saying he’s a part of a conspiracy to rob banks. Several major branches have been robbed. I’ll put in the motion to dismiss charges in the morning. But I don’t know what evidence they claim to have.”

“Lisa, Steve and Sean will look after you while I’m in here. I trust them, so whatever you need, you let them know.” I nodded, tears started to fall from my eyes. “Come here.”

He brought me in for a hug and whispered in my ear, “Don’t worry about me. Just keep your head in those books and I’ll be out before you know it.”

“I’m worried,” I confessed.

“Don’t be,” he assured me. “I’m not worried about the charges, I didn’t do whatever they think I did. I just don’t like not having my ability.”

“It’ll be back soon,” I assured him, through the touch of his hug I could see that his ability would come back to him tomorrow. Whatever they injected him with didn’t have permanent effects.

I left with Steve and managed to keep my tears to a minimum until we reached my dorm. He walked me back to my room. I didn’t ask him to, but he stayed with me until the morning. My brother would not have been pleased if he found me sleeping in his arms, but that’s where I was. He spent the whole day with me after he went home to change. As we walked along the campus pond, I decided if my brother trusted me in his care, I could trust him with what my brother told me.

“Someone drugged my brother.”

“What do you mean?”

“He has the ability to persuade people.” I figured if I said that and he thought I meant he was a great salesman, then I’d leave it at that.

“I know and my brother and I can move fast.” He did understand what I meant. “So what did the drugs do to him?”

“They took away his ability.” He stopped. I thought I saw fear sweep across his face.

“How long will it be gone?” I didn’t know if I should explain how I knew, but I answered his question.

“He should have it back by now.” He nodded.

“Never speak of this again.” His tone was serious as he looked across the pond.

My brother faced his arraignment only to have his court date set and to be told he would not be released on bail. His lawyer filed all the motions and contested all the accusations, but to no avail. Now he had to focus on building a defense for my brother. Quan looked at me as they escorted him back into custody. The charges he didn’t think would stick weren’t going anywhere.

Steve and I became close while my brother awaited trial. We became friends quickly until one night it changed into something more.

One of the fraternities hosted a party and Steve invited me to join him hoping it would take my mind off of the stress of my brother’s situation. We moved our bodies to the music even though at times it seemed the music moved to his. I was still amazed at how he allowed what had to be the tiniest fraction of his ability through without revealing what he could really do. The night was perfect until someone bumped into me.

A jolt, I felt a jolt.

“What’s wrong?” He could tell something had changed.

“That guy,” I said and turned my head towards the one that bumped into me. “Someone’s going to kill him in twenty minutes.”

He didn’t question me and he didn’t look at me like I was crazy. “Can we stop it?”

I nodded, oftentimes when I sensed someone was going to die, I could also sense an alternate future for the person to live. “If we can stop him from leaving…” As soon as the words left my mouth, my arms were empty. He must have gone to the young man before he could step outside. A few minutes later, I found them sitting on the couch talking like old friends. After about 10 minutes, I walked over to them. Steve introduced me to his new found friend. I held my hand out to shake his. When we touched, I didn’t see the same vision from before. I looked at Steve to let him know the young man would be fine. He excused himself to go dance with me.

“So that’s your ability, to see how someone will die.” I shook my head as we walked along the sidewalk towards my dorm.

“No, not exactly. I can sometimes see glimpses of the future like with my brother. It doesn’t happen often though. And I can only see a person’s death if it’s violent.”

“I hope that doesn’t happen often. It would make you a very sad person.”

“No, it doesn’t, but when it does, I try to find a way to stop it.”

“So you’re a superhero.” He laughed and asked me where I tucked my cape. Instantly, he lightened the mood and I found his arm around my shoulders. When we arrived back to my dorm, he kissed me gently on the lips before he left.

As my brother’s court date approached, detectives asked me come to the station to ask questions about my brother at the police station. It seemed like an ordinary part of the investigation except for the man with the blonde hair that sat in the corner while they questioned me. They asked me questions about my brother’s business which I answered to the best of my ability. Then they started to show me what they considered evidence against my brother. I looked, but didn’t believe it proved anything. My brother had always told me he was a businessman. I believed him and never questioned how he afforded to send me to college, the nice house he lived in, or the cars he drove figuring he earned the money legitimately. One began to describe the theory they had about how my brother was the main conspirator in a string of bank robberies.

“You know, we just can’t figure out how he does it. Somehow, in a room full of people, he’s able to slip in and slip out with the money without anyone seeing.”

I was only halfway listening, I was singing a song in my head – “this is the song that never ends”. I realized a while back that my mind was being read. Probably by the blonde guy in the corner and even though my brother didn’t tell me anything, I didn’t want a stray thought to be used against him. I sang the song even as they stood up thanking me for my time.

Steve was waiting for me outside. The blonde guy followed me outside. I figured his powers were short ranged. I knew I had the song going in my head, but how would I get Steve to block his thoughts? I did the only thing I could think of. I got in the car and kissed him. I didn’t stop until I felt the effect of the blonde man fade. Steve sped off when I sat back and buckled myself in.

I supposed the place he brought me to was his. I didn’t ask. My mind tried to piece together what the detectives’ questions and theory would mean for my brother.

I walked into the house and took in the simplicity of the decor. He turned me towards him and looked into my eyes. We searched each other’s face and when we found what we were looking for, we brought lips together.

He’d kissed me that night when he dropped me off after the party, but it was just a consideration of the possibility that we could take this further. I kissed him in front of the station and although he accepted it, it was rushed and confused him. This kiss signified the decision to start a relationship. From this moment on, I would be his and he would be mine.

When he pulled back, I was instantly brought back to the present.

I had just fallen backwards into Steve’s arms. I  didn’t think anyone was behind me, but it wasn’t a mystery how he was able to get in position so quickly. 

“Thank you,” I said to my rescuer.

“You’re welcome,” he answered softly.  

I felt a jolt when he caught me. Sadness overcame me as I saw his death. The same blonde man from the police station stood over him with an empty syringe and another man held a gun in his direction. Steve smirked and turned to run, but that’s when he realized he was in trouble. He wasn’t as fast as he should be. The gun went off and he fell to the ground.

In an instant, I had a glimpse of how life would be if Steve and I were together, but in the end this beautiful man would die. However, there was an alternate future for him. That kiss in his home marked a fork in the road. I could love him, but it would lead to his death or I could choose to walk away from him and he would live.

I had a choice to make. This marked the first of those difficult decisions I had to make. It wasn’t easy, but then again, they never were.

By Angelique Grey

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