“Alexa,” her friend greeted her as she walked through the door.
Nadia owned this cozy restaurant. They had been friends since they were little and she loved to come here.
“Nadia, I needed breakfast out and couldn’t think of any other place I’d rather eat. Good food, good company.”
“You’re flattering me because you want extra French toast.”
“Who me?” Alexa placed her hand on her heart and tried to keep the smile off her lips.
“Yes, you. Have a seat. It’s a slow morning; I think I will eat with you.”
“Do you want some help?”
“No,” her breath caught in her throat before she threw Alexa a quick smile.
Nadia disappeared into the kitchen. When she emerged, she was carrying plates of French toast and sausage.
Alexa jumped up and took the plates while Nadia went to get coffee and syrup. Finally, the table was set and they started to eat.
“So tell me what really brought you here today?”
Alexa sighed. Leave it to Nadia to get to the heart of the matter right away.”
“I had another dream last night.”
“Which one? The one where you’re being chased or the one where you’re having the best sex of your life?”
Alexa squirmed in her chair. The male in her dream made her feel like a goddess even though she never saw his face. He would touch her body as if she was precious and give her slow, drugging kisses. No matter how she tried, his face would not come into view. All she could do was enjoy his hands on her body.
“If only it had been the second one. I think I would still be in bed reliving every detail.” She gave a weak smile and shoved more food in her mouth.
“You look exhausted.”
“Thanks, that’s what good friends are for.”
“Hey, I am your best friend. Don’t forget that.”
Alexa laughed. Nadia was her best friend. She couldn’t imagine her life without her, and she was the only one who didn’t look at her like she was a freak.
Nervously she pushed at her hair.
“Alexa, leave your hair alone, it’s beautiful and I don’t understand why you don’t like it.”
“I’m walking around with a head full of white hair and I have since my sixteenth birthday. Believe me, if it was your hair you would hate it.
Alexa was born with a head full of dark hair. She loved it, it made her face stand out in all of its angles. On the last night of her fifteenth year, she went to bed thinking how great the next day would be. That was the first night she ever dreamed. She was being bathed in fire. It burned her but each breath of it made her stronger, able to endure the fire until she knew she would never succumb. It was also the first time she felt that dark presence hunting her.
When she woke up, she felt weak. Getting out of bed was a trial, but she managed, because it was her birthday. She was sixteen now. She stumbled to the mirror and that’s when she realized she was changed. Her hair was completely white. Not the white hair of an eighty-year-old, but young vibrant don’t you wish you were me white hair. No longer would she blend in with the woodwork. Everyone would notice her. Her sky blue eyes were now electric blue. She looked like a cool anime character and she hated it.
Her mom screamed when she walked into her room. Her dad ran to see what was happening and almost fainted at the look of her. The sadness in her mother’s eyes was her undoing.
“You always say that, Alexa, but you’re hot. I don’t know why you deny it.”
Nadia didn’t have to live with the double takes or the ‘hey, what convention did you escape from.’ She didn’t have to look into employer’s faces when she was interviewed. But the absolute worse was she didn’t have to be hit on by every man who thought her looks were an invitation for him to hit on her.
She went to every doctor who said they could help but there was never any change; in the end she simply stopped going and started dealing with who she was.
“That’s why I love you, Nadia. You see the best in everything. Now back to my creepy dream.”
“What do you think it means?”
“I think something is hunting me. Don’t laugh, I know it sounds weird. It’s just now that I’m thirty all the warnings my Mom gave me are haunting me.”
“I love your mom you know that, but she was just superstitious.”
“Don’t say that.”
Her mom and dad disappeared two years ago. They just up and left, taking nothing with them. The police couldn’t find a trace of them. Nothing on the security camera, no one saw them, they just disappeared. She was still holding out hope they were alive, somewhere.
“Sorry, Alexa I didn’t mean it like that. I meant she is superstitious and she was trying to get you to believe like her.”
“So you don’t think a large dragon is going to fly down, pick me up, and carry me away in his talons?”
They both laughed. Her mom was a little wild when she started talking about dragons.
With a sigh, she focused on last night’s dream. “At first it wasn’t too bad. I was somewhere hot. Not like ‘I’m sweating to death hot.’ More like I am finally warm hot.” She had been cold since she turned sixteen. Even in the midst of summer, she wanted to wear a jacket but most days forced herself not to.
“It felt so good, I wanted to stay. I was walking towards something or maybe it was someone. I can never really be sure. All I know is the time was almost right.” She could still picture that place now. It smelled delicious, made her mouth water thinking about it. The smell invaded her taking over her senses; she looked for it desperately—that place of peace, but could never find it outside her dreams. The beauty of the place was a feast for her eyes, high mountain peaks and valleys filled with lush green foliage and a river that ran through it.
“That’s when it happened. A feeling crawled up my spine, taking any pleasure I found in that place away. I started running. Screaming, but I couldn’t find my voice. I had to find what I was looking for because my time was running out. It crept out behind me, I knew it was going to kill me, and then the alarm clock rang.”
Alexa gave a shaky laugh. The same fear from her dream invaded her. The need to get up and run pulsed through her limbs. It took everything she had to sit still.
“Are you ok?” Nadia reached over and touched her arm.
‘Yeah,” her voice came out even shakier. “Guess I freaked myself out talking about the dream. I feel the same feeling of being pursued as I felt last night. Crazy?”
“Of course not. You can never be too safe. Always follow your instincts.”
Alexa nodded. “Nadia, I have to go. I promise I will stay and help you clean up another day.”
“Go. I don’t know what you’re looking for Alexa, but I hope you find it.”
“I love you. You’re such a good friend.”
“I keep telling you, I’m your best friend.”
Alexa smiled, it was their running joke since they were in grade school together. Some things never changed and she took comfort in that fact. She walked around and hugged Nadia before high tailing out the door. She couldn’t sit there another minute the feeling of danger was growing.
Nadia watched her flee with a sad smile on her face.
“Did you do it?”
Nadia nodded her head refusing to turn around; she knew what she would see. A large black shadow would be in her doorway threatening death, if she dared to defy it.
She stayed still not daring to breathe; eventually the warmth returned to the room and she knew it, whatever it was, had left. She opened her hand to see the small black device she was supposed to plant on her friend. Dropping it on the floor she crushed it with the heel of her boot.