Well, hello again! Welcome back for another installment of Titan's Jewel. Away we go:
Shiloh couldn't sleep. The tiny bunk bed was hard and uncomfortable, in spite of her pillow and favorite blanket. Not to mention, her feet hit the wall and if she sat up too fast her head would be through the linoleum ceiling. How Brett could be snoring away below was beyond her.
Brett. The man was nothing but a question peppering maniac. He'd been trying to pry history out of her ever since their conversation in the RV's kitchen earlier in the afternoon. While Tom was mapping out the points they'd be starting with, Brett was sneaking questions. While Shiloh was surveying the land to determine her best route action to excavate the land, he was throwing leading bits of conversation at her.
Even while she was attempting to scrape together a meal for the three of them, he was pestering her. Finally, Shiloh pretended pretended to be snoring and he rolled over on the bottom bunk, silent at long last. She didn't dare move until Brett's steady snoring floated to her ears.
Shiloh lay quietly, staring at the pocked ceiling. Insomnia was an old friend, and quite unwelcome. Sleepless nights often dropped in without notice, beginning when her mother became gravely ill with cancer. Shiloh would sit up with her into the wee hours of the morning while the pain wrenched through her system, singing soft melodies and stroking her mother's hair until sleep took her in its soft grasp. Before she died, Shiloh's mother made her the wool blanket she was rubbing against her cheek that very night.
And now, her brain just wouldn't shut down. The pills the doctors gave her were no help, excercises were no use. She just stopped seeing the baffled doctors after awhile.
"Psst." The whisper made her jump so hard that her head deflected off the unforgiving ceiling. Even with only his eyes visible, the devilish enjoyment in her pain was visible on Brett's face.
"What?" Shiloh whispered irritably, rubbing her forehead.
"You're not sleeping." It wasn't a question. He stood more fully and rested his elbows on her bed.
"No, I'm not. You were, though," she replied. Shiloh fluffed her pillow and threw her head back on it before drawing the blanket up to her cheek again.
Brett snorted. "If you can call that sleeping. These aren't very comfortable."
"I'd rather sleep on spikes," she agreed, smiling.
"Hey," he said after a brief pause, poking her in the shoulder, "come on a walk with me."
Shiloh balked at him and propped on an elbow. "Excuse me? It's 4 a.m. and you want to take a casual stroll through an abandoned fishing town?"
"Why not? You're not scared, are you?" he taunted. Pride and a hint of insanity welled inside of her. Hadn't her ex-fiancee said the same damn thing when he'd been trying to convince her to go skydiving?
"Scared? Never." And hadn't she said the same damn thing back? Curse my pride, she thought as her feet swung down to meet cold tiled floor.
Brett was waiting just outside when Shiloh shut the door softly behind her. His breath streamed out in tiny puffs against the cold air. She grinned and cupped her already cold hands over her mouth for the steam. The town seemed to watch her through the thick fog and dirty, broken panes of glass. A door swung on a creaky hinge somewhere in the distance, leaving an eerie and echoing sound in the still morning air. Shiloh couldn’t suppress the shiver that ran through her. “A walk right now, Brett? Are you sure?”
He shifted on each foot, his naturally high energy personality shining through even in the dim morning light. “Yeah. I’d like to see the town before we dig it up.”
Shiloh walked a few paces very quickly to catch up to him when he took off. “Didn’t we see the town yesterday?”
“Well, sure, but that wasn’t really seeing the town, you know?” He looked at her, expecting a nod of agreement or some sound of consent.
“No, I don’t get it.”
Suddenly, he darted off the road, compelling her to follow with a waving hand. They ventured into the creepy little park with its withered trees and rusted playground equipment. “Take this old park for instance, Shiloh. The kids used to romp and play on the equipment, just as happy as could be, while their parents or babysitters sat on these benches and watched them.” Brett patted the bench wistfully, looking somewhere far off.
He grabbed her hand and tugged her towards a tree. “And look here,” he said, excitement filling his voice. “This is where the young lovers would come to sit down and talk about their dreams and futures together, Shiloh.”
“You’re a hopeless romantic, aren’t you, Brett?” She grinned and poked him in the ribs. “You are. You’re blushing.”
Brett smiled. “Do you see this?” he whispered, pointing to a heart on the tree, forever carved into the wood by a shaking hand. “The mark of a set of lovers.”
"But what makes this tree so special out of the thousands of trees across America with the exact same thing?"
"This one is the only one of its kind, of course." Duh, Shiloh, his voice implied. He walked to the next tree and waved her over with an excited hand. "Look at this one," he said.
Shiloh made her way over in the low lying fog, not watching where she was going. Her foot caught on a root and she flew forward in a free fall, but Brett caught her halfway down. She found herself looking straight into his eyes, their steaming breaths mingling in the early morning. "Careful there," he said softly.
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