“You ever had that kind of day?”
“Yeah,” she said, knowing what the teacher was saying without the burden of specifics.
The teacher leaned back on the railing. “I’m having one now.”
“Else why’d y’call me, y’know?”
The teacher coughed a grunt in response.
They stood facing in opposite directions, she looking south and west over the city of Honolulu from the 23rd floor, he leaning back-to against the rail of the lanai and looking in on the wreckage.
“Anyway thanks for coming, all the same.” The teacher spread his arms out, gliding along the steel.
“You know I’d do anything for you,” she said, shifting her weight away from him. She looked sad, and her eyes were wet around the rims.
The teacher was staring at what was left of his furniture, his living space, his home life through the glass. “It’s not that big of a deal…”
She actually laughed, shaking her head, wiping under her eyelids carefully.
“Okay maybe it is. But we need to make a decision.”
“You need to make a decision.”
He stabbed a look quickly at her, shocked. A long and heavy moment passed. He looked downward. “They won’t be much longer.”
She too looked down, straight down, twenty-three floors down, to the radiated wreckage on the ground, the pieces of the contents of the teacher’s home that had been thrown off the lanai today. “You see it coming?”
“I did. Somewhere. Somehow. I knew it was inevitable. Denying that didn’t prevent it.”
“Sho’ you’re right.”
He looked again, drinking her in, her dark caramel skin and straight graphite hair quenching the feral part of him just enough to cause him to thirst for more. “Damn you,” he said, matter-of-factly.
“You talk at me like it’s my fault.”
He laughed raucously. “Everything’s your fault.”
She cupped her elbows in her hands and brought her feet together. The tradewinds lifted and moved long hair against sunkissed cheek as she looked out again, to the distant and sinking sun. “If that’s how you feel.”
The teacher’s face grew dark, the blood pushing against his skin, veins distended, fists clenched. But he said nothing.
They didn’t come boisterously, with sirens and screeching tires and battering rams and SWAT gear. No. And the teacher had foreseen this; it was child’s play. Instead: a knock at the door. Soft. His jaw ticked up toward it, his eyes narrowed already.
“I’m sorry,” she said, unmoving.
He didn’t move either. “No.” He pushed off the rail and stood steady, feet wide apart, hands up, palms facing the knock at the door.
She reached into her back pocket.
The teacher tensed.
She drew out black handcuffs with a measure of skill, held them on the flat of the palm of her right hand like an offering to the teacher.
He looked at her, saw her, eye to eye.
The doorknob turned slowly and quietly on the other side of the glass.
“You never knew,” he began, but the door was opening and it was too late. He turned toward it in reflex, taking his eyes from her for the briefest of moments.
She moved too quickly for him. The cuffs out and open, she managed to get one of them on his right wrist, but that was all. He spun away, ripping the cuffs from her control.
The door was wide open, some of the junk on the floor pushed aside in its sweeping arc, and there they were, standing, the only ones that could deter any of this.
She turned to face him, standing, relaxed. He came to a halt at the opposite edge of the lanai in a crouch. He growled; a fearsome noise. The handcuffs fell from his wrist and clattered on the concrete floor of the lanai—but this time they did not melt. She arched an eyebrow in response and looked at him.
His eyes were changing, blackening, and she shouted to those at the door, “It’s happening!”
They rushed in, fifteen of them, one at a time, silent as poison gas, gliding, soft, deadly, pale.
The teacher looked at her again as the metamorphosis took hold. He said it again, and one last time: “You never knew.” He closed his eyes and crouched deeper. The lanai shuddered violently, the concrete floor under his feet becoming liquid. He fell through.
She moved quickly to the edge.
He was gone on a contrail of fire.