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I lay awake, staring at the ceiling. Nine other agents are asleep in the 22 ft by 22 ft room- most have been, for a while.
Usually, I would be too.
Today is a different story. Today, Kaitlin sleeps two rooms down. Kaitlin my little sister, who is dead.
Who was dead.
And is now alive.
3 minutes, I tell myself. 3 minutes for you to go to sleep.
2 minutes pass. Then 3 minutes. 4.
I am still awake.
I roll my eyes and get up silently to walk to the door. Light from the hallway pours into the room.
Emily wakes up, and in 1.7 seconds has me pinned to the ground.
“C’mon Gabriel!” she hisses. “It’s 2 am!”
“Sorry,” I whisper. “Go back to sleep, I’ll be right back.” I gently close the door.
I walk noiselessly down the hall, passing two doors, the light harsh to my eyes. I stop at the one marked 146.
I open the door. Kaitlin is asleep on the single bunk, brown hair lying across her face, still damp from the shower she took the night before.
Like the river.
I shake my head, grasp the doorpost a little tighter.
“Back up, Gabriel!”
That voice. I whip around, expecting to see the hulking figure of my father. Nothing.
“I said, back up!”
I am hanging on to my father’s arm, trying to pull it back from her.
No. He is not here; it is not real.
But there are no numbers I can use, nothing to hold onto to keep me from slipping into the past. I am too young, too untrained, and I cannot measure distance with only my mind at 15. I cannot measure the speed of the river that is running, running too fast for any child to be near.
But he is drunk again. He is drunk and he has slapped Kaitlin. This registers a moment too late in my mind, and before I can yell, before I can stop he is at it again.
I run forward, because what else would an older brother do?
His fist is pulled back, ready for another but I grab it and hold on.
“Back up, Gabriel!” His words slur together. I consider it, but Kaitlin is on the ground and there is blood and there is nothing I can do besides hold on.
I hold on, but he throws me off. His elbow buries itself into my face and I stagger back, blood pouring from my nose. I can hear Kaitlin crying, my father shouting, but all I feel is pain.
Suddenly my vision tunnels and I see him pull his fist back again, Kaitlin flinching backwards, back, back until her heel reaches the end of solid ground and meets the beginning of rushing water.
She falls in.
Only then do I run, only then am I able to move. I scream, only stopping when my toes are wet because of the water.
It is cold, and that is all that registers in my mind.
Kaitlin has disappeared, already carried so far downstream that I cannot see her, cannot see her hair, her face her eyes…
But the word is not rough, not slurred. It is quiet and sweet and untouched by alcohol.
“What are you doing here?”
I realize I’ve stood there in the doorway, silent. I say nothing, but simply closed the door with shaking hands. I sank against the wall, pressing my hands together, my eyes closed.
I am okay, because I can measure my heartbeat, even though it is too fast (160, 165, 172). I am okay because I can measure the hallway with only my eyes (4.5 ft wide, 280 ft long). I am okay because I can hear Kaitlin’s breath as she goes back to sleep, her heartbeat slowing but not too much (57, 53, 49). I am okay, because I can do now what I couldn’t do before, pin an enemy to the ground and shoot him before he does more harm. I am okay because now I can protect Kaitlin, which is why I do not walk 30 feet to my bunk but stay in front of her door, for the remaining 4 hours of the night, a silent sentry to watch over her.
A guardian angel.