CHAPTER 2: BLURRY

Everyone has that fear inside of them… that fear that there's always a possibility that they're crazy. This fear only blossomed when someone said, "crazy people don't know they're crazy" because it let in the idea that you just cannot know that you are crazy. Even when you're in an asylum and confined for your insanity and you act like you know you're crazy, you don't actually know. In fact, everyday in that white walled room of yours, you wonder, you ponder, you doubt, and ask yourself, "I can't actually be crazy, right?" There's a strand of hope in you that says, "You're not crazy, but the doctors, nurses, even your family are! But not you! Impossible! Those nutty people all fussing around about your sanity!" Who was really crazy? How are the people who tell you you're not crazy sure that you're not, when you're not sure if they aren't? It sounds so vague how the whole crazy system works. Perhaps it is all just a conspiracy to keep nonconformists behind walls or in a straitjacket. That certain fear of being insane embraced the very essence of Lisa's being. It's not as ridiculous as it sounds when you're actually caught in that moment. Maybe it was the side effect of being raped and being so badly charmed by a killer. She did not want to go to a therapist—a shrink! Ugh… the possibility of being diagnosed as a nymphomaniac, bipolar or just plain crazy alarmed and scared her. She could only ask herself the question, "Am I crazy?"

That day she smiled when Huebert had left her, served as a wake up call. It was creeping her out how she was becoming obsessed with Jackson that she was becoming innately loyal to the memory of him. At least she was not a necromaniac… He was certainly still alive. This is another ground for insanity! Was she not in touch with reality… a schizzo? She should fear him, fear his very existence, but that was not exactly how she felt. He was in jail after all…she was safe… she was just having a crush on him… obsession's really more like it. The possibility that he gets out of jail is something she'd rather not think about unless in her dreams. In her dreams, it was all cloud nine but it most probably wouldn't end up like that if it were in reality since chances are he will be there for revenge and not to satisfy her not so docile whims. Revenge was best served cold and it would not be done quickly, of course reality is still reality. She still acknowledges that in reality, heaven with Jackson would only be reached if she manages to kill him while he is killing her if hell did not exist that is. Anything with reality and Jackson in the equation would equate to a morbid scene and her in a coffin or floating lifelessly on the river, unless! Cheating death was her vocation, her calling in life.

Why the hell did she have to go crazy (literally) for a lunatic? Like dissolves like… a conditional law in chemistry, how silly. Crazy Lisa likes Crazy Jackson, nothing spectacularly weird with that.

Living alone in her unit in Miami never really felt truly alone. There were just moments she was sure she wasn't alone. The rest of the time, she was too busy wondering about other crap than the crap that she was alone, which is saying a lot for a woman in her late 20's, single. Perhaps solitude was pulling her heartstrings, making her cherish it? No, no it wasn't. Being in bed with a man didn't exactly scream out solitude; but how about the other times?

Memories of Jackson then came back to her. How exactly did Jackson Rippner survive that last day she saw him?

Death was not exactly an adversary. Death was not so unwelcomed. He was not suicidal this way, but just fearless and slightly precautious. He had done myriads of jobs without a scar but a few with some deep ones but nonetheless, it meant that Mr. Rippner easily escaped death. After all, he was not nicknamed Jack the Ripper without the ability to manipulate his life strings. Bad weeds die hard, maybe he should write a book about it under some pseudonym. He had impeccable plans; equipped with escape routes, plan B's to Z's, and physical training. What kind of a manager would not have a plan Z? The corporation did not just force him to be death's advocate but had naturally become the best conspirator of death or manager, as he likes to call it. He was not threatened into his profession, rather he chose it. Bleeding, sprawled on his prey's territory, and yet deep down he did not feel like a goner. As blood climbed up his throat, he thought, "I'm actually going to use plan C."

Her father had left her for a few minutes that day. After their second of an embrace when they found themselves triumphant her father hurriedly rushed out the door to get the police whose sirens could be heard a few meters away. It left her alone, staring unbelievably at him. She did it. Did she?

Her dad and she shot him and were sure he was dead, by now. Sure? She came to him and checked his pulse and was shocked he was not. Her dad had tried to kill him with bullets and she'd already given him quite the beating prelude to that but this superman's kryptonite was none of that. Finding herself still gawking at the fact that she could still feel his pulse, suddenly, bringing herself to a position to land another bullet into his head with the flashing gun just a few feet away if she twisted a little to the right was not an option. He was unconscious and clearly bleeding through his wounds. Not only would she be really killing someone, she would also be doing it while he was unconscious. It seemed wrong to kill him in his sleep when he was already dying. She would be like a rat, an assassin, like him, the scum of the earth. Perhaps the pulse she was feeling under her two fingertips under his neck was nearing extinction. He might even be brain dead already since a dead frog under dissection could still have a beating heart.

She woke up from the reverie of dancing at the cliff of life and death for Jackson Rippner. She could not simply wait, and just watch him die. She put pressure on his gun wounds with her hands to slow down the bleeding but found the need to oxygenate his paling face. How could she do that without both her hands? She was saving his life, for some mad reason that proved she had turned crazy the moment she had met him. Pity, it must have been pity and humanity that coursed in her veins. There was nothing crazy about that, right?

So, she counted to three before releasing his major wounds; the bullets. Hastily, she put his chin down with one index finger and squeezed his nose shut with her other hand. She gasped a breath and blew into him. She then got back on the wounds and noticed something… He was hot… thermally, literally hot which was contrary to his alabaster face. Dying people were mostly cold… Then she saw it, the vest he was wearing. It wasn't as thick as bulletproof vests and wasn't tight that it constricted his breathing but it was keeping him warm and alive. A bulletproof vest would have caused suspicion in the airport but this vest looked different and subtle enough not to. She couldn't take off the vest, she knew it was something he had on to keep him alive for some reason but now, all he seemed to need was oxygen to be pumped into him as she felt under his nose any air being sucked in and felt nothing. It only takes four minutes for a man to be brain dead. Perhaps the jacket had absorbed some pressure from the bullets to keep it superficial… This man really did come prepared for anything.

He was going to live, wasn't he?

So she kept breathing in to him, supporting him, almost kissing him, making her lips swollen of all the contact and puckering. It was malice free, really, she was focused enough to be so. She could feel him growing more alive with the second and it was worrying her. What if he killed her when he recovered? You never know but he might just have regenerative powers. Or a shot of adrenaline, revenge, weird energy might make him just kill her. A stabbed trachea and gunned trunk would certainly drive people to a killing spree but she felt like she had no choice. She kicked away the weapon near his hand and resumed. She couldn't leave him to die. She only stopped once the sirens rang close enough to be sure. She didn't want to appear as if she was trying to save him though she in fact was, she didn't want anyone to know… The facts flew in that he was still supposed to be a villain that she is supposed to not want to help. Sitting in front of his pale face, she stared at him. The evil, fearsome but beautiful eyes were concealed by his eyelids with the most angelic eyelashes a man could have. He wasn't frowning, that would be taking too much of his energy. His face only held a weak sleep as if in a lazy afternoon with his mouth hanging open a little. Only this time his full lips were dry and chapped, his healthy rosiness just a dim memory and his shirt soaking in his blood.

The Paramedics came and took him away... she was actually in the same ambulance as he. They were shocked to know that he was her assailant when she was telling the story. She was telling the story in a panic; characterized by her hype tempo, staccato and shortness of breath. She had looked at him with so much forlorn, as if in regret in the distance, as if with a love that was lost and thus her lack of celebration with conquering her tall, handsome criminal left the officers a bit baffled. The only reason that made them depend on her testimony was the words, "I'm still shocked."

"Oh, aftershock… Poor girl..." The officer had nodded at each other.

Jackson did survive. The trials went on, he was convicted. They never did see each other though. The times he was there she wasn't, times she was, he was in the hospital. It was probably for their own good. He was imprisoned for a lifetime and after that she never heard of him again.

Never… never heard of him again from the police… from the police.

A month from her so-called break-up, she was back in the dating world. Cynthia had managed to force her into a 3-day vacation at some resort. No, Cynthia would not settle for a hotel—reminded her too much of work. She said she would bring her boyfriend and a blind date along. Lisa was not excited nonetheless was pretty open. She did not want to close doors on possibility, she was new and improved! Somehow? So she packed her bags and rode with Cynthia in her car, asleep, to hell-who-cares-where.

The resort was experiencing bad business at the moment with the uncaring heavy rains. The pools were overflowing, the whole resort was flooding! The coconut trees swayed angrily in the wind. While workers, who were also struggling from not being blown away, were manhandling some umbrellas, the other umbrellas had gone inside out or were at the tip of flying away. They sat in the car for a few minutes, watching the weather that roared at the whole resort.

Cynthia was starting to worry about some piece of roof would come slicing into the car, going all Final Destination on them. She was also blaming herself; she did not predict this would happen, her little swimming getaway turning into a perfect day for hot cacao. But neither was Lisa good with predicting, like how she didn't predict that gentleman Jackson was a jostling manager out on the kill.

The rain was strong and furious; it made Lisa immobile and silent in the car. Cynthia was just apologizing nonstop and was starting to get annoying.

Lisa was supposed to meet her blind date at the hotel about two hours ago but that was not visible right then. What they saw out the window also wasn't so visible. The strong downpour blurred the whole place into some bad watercolor painting framed by the car window. She saw someone, someone going towards their direction in the chilling, thick rain. It was hard to believe this was still rain, there was no thunder to call it a storm but the strength was just the same. Maybe this was a monsoon, or a cyclone, or whatever, she's not good with weather jargon.

He wore clothes perfect for the harsh weather. It completely covered him, if he was even a he.

If it was a he, maybe it was her date?

He had a hat that shielded his eyes and a hood tightly locked only leaving his nose exposed. He continued to move towards them.

This mystery guy was certainly of the male species she was sure. It was in his steadfast walk despite the contrary winds.

He reached them and knocked on the passenger seat's window. She watched as Cynthia rolled down her window a little.

"You, is that you?" Cynthia asked the unknown man.

"Boy, that was a very smart question, Cynthia," Lisa thought, a bit irritated by Cynthia as of the moment.

They still could not get a clear view of him, not even of his nose that was the only part of his face that was exposed since again, the rain blurred everything. However, of what she made out, he had a soft, male nose that she hoped was not connected to some disfigured face underneath.

"Pardon, ma'am?" he said with a voice that seemed to have been distorted to a different tone by the thick cloth that was covering his mouth.

"Oh, it's not… sorry… are we blocking the driveway?"

"Sort of… Would you like to go to the parking? It is much safer to keep your car there in case of hale. You've picked quite a grand time for a swim," he had to butt in that sarcasm into his offer for assistance. He should have just laughed as well if he thought that it was funny to be one a resort, all ready for a swim, but instead this horrible weather making your "best friend" go all self pitying and self degrading to the level of annoying. What a peculiar way of welcoming guests to a resort… He should be happy for their coming, they were business, money.

"Yes, yes, but we don't know where."

"That's why I'm here. Follow me, miss."

They all doubted if he had heard Cynthia's thank you since he had walked in front of her car so fast. They followed him and reached an elevated building where they parked their car. The minute they got out of the car he was already going away.

Cynthia yelled a thank you and he looked back at them. There was no rain inside the building and he had raised his baseball cap a little as he made a gesture of a bow meters away as though saying welcome. But before he'd left, his eyes had connected with Lisa's for a split second to wink at her.

She recognized him. But none of them did. She had whispered in a voice with mixed emotions, "Jackson" Who could forget those eyes? She would recognize those eyes even a mile away.

Cynthia heard her mumble and asked her what she had just said then inquired, "What?"

Having seen the innocence and nonchalance in Cynthia's face she found out she didn't recognize him.

That was three years ago, he's still in prison… In fact, Rippner couldn't possible be the only man in the world to have hooded blue eyes.

She must have been hallucinating, because of missing him too much. Maybe she should visit him at prison. That is crazy. That was definitely not him. It cannot be. Justice was served and Jackson was incarcerated for life. Now, if she told Cynthia what she'd seen, she might think of all sorts of conclusions. She might even put a finger on truth—about her obsession. That wouldn't be nice and that would be violating the contract. And so, she would keep quiet. She was probably just imagining it. She was probably delusional; you know how crazy people are, even when they do not want to admit it.

There was an entrance to the hall from the parking building where they could check in for a room. The place was pretty huge and beautiful only there was a brown out. There were a few emergency lights put on but it was still a bit dim since there weren't a lot of windows.

Cynthia began squealing. This made Lisa nervous for a split second until she noticed that Cynthia was running towards some other man besides her boyfriend. She looked at her side and made sure that Cynthia's boyfriend was beside her and not the guy Cynthia was hugging right now. Indeed, it was not her boyfriend. Oh, her blind date? It did sort of make sense that she was close to the guy who she was actually cousin to.

He looked familiar even if she couldn't see his face since he was raising Cynthia with his hands around her waist way up, covering it. He was tall and had brown hair she saw glimpses of… the skinniness.

It began to make sense. "Oh, no," she weakly said.

Cynthia was walking towards her already with her cousin hand in hand, his face in quite a good view to tell why he was so familiar.

What happened minutes ago replayed in her head, "Hue, is that you?"

Oh, damn Hue.

They twitched at the sight of each other but nonetheless pretended smiles in front of Cynthia.

Hue was thinking, "it's that emotional baggage girl. This is shit."

"Huebert Dawson, this is your date for three days, the magnificent Lisa Reisert! She's Wonder Woman, you know!"

"She probably is…" he sort of lied, still a bit in shock and panic. He knew Cynthia was sensitive, she wouldn't like it if he suddenly acted bad around a lady, especially a really close friend of hers.

Lisa smiled at Cynthia and then at Huebert. "Nice to meet you," she shook his hand and then looked back at Cynthia. She hoped Hubert would take the clue that she was pretending they just met each other. "You see, the weather's kind of too cold for me at the moment… I have to leave you guys a bit. I got to go the lady's." And with that she stormed off alone and into the lady's room right after she asked a staff member where it was.

She went in, absentmindedly locked the door and quickly realized her mistake. Her hunches were mostly right, why did she choose to ignore them now? She should never have gone to this silly vacation shit. She felt like she shouldn't have but had insisted to herself that only crazy workaholics don't go on vacations.

In a matter of seconds, a voice from three years ago, that has been replayed too many times in her fantasies spoke, "Thanks for the wind Leese, I really needed it that time. I knew you were still nice and soft inside albeit the little throat incident." His hot breath entered her ears dangerously close and for a few seconds she just wanted to close her eyes and pretend she really was just crazy.