I almost didn't make it to today's flash, but in the end I managed to scrape a little something together with the hopscotch prom. I'm continuing where I left off with Bethany and General Hodgins. If you haven't read last week's flash you can do so HERE. If you haven't read any of the story, you can catch up by clicking HERE and scrolling down to the bottom to the links titled 'Light of Time'.
I hope you enjoy this piece and as always, go read the other flasher's, they have some truly great stories!
Light of time 8
Slowly, Bethany turned around to face Hodgins. Her body felt rigid, as if it had lost all sense of flexibility and she had become a slab of stone. Cold sweat gathered at the back of her neck and the sensation disappeared, becoming replaced by a nervous quake that made her knees tremble. She swallowed hard, the ridiculous thought that women of her position shouldn’t sweat so much crossing her mind.
“The day before the incident, you say?” she finally managed to say.
“Yes, it was one of the few things I managed to recover from it.”
“I thought you had been lost in the wilderness for some time.”
She watched the tall man as he crossed his arms over his chest, his posture betraying his defensiveness.
“I’m not saying you weren’t, General.” She fought the urge to roll her eyes. “How did you get it back?”
“It was found in the wreckage and I claimed it back when they found me. What does it matter?” He took large strides to a small cabinet in the corner and propped it open. Pulling out two glasses and a bottle, he turned to face her one more time.
“Would you care for a drink?”
“No thank you.”
He poured himself some of the yellow liquid and gulped it down hastily.
Taking a calming breath, Bethany reentered the room. She needed time to think, to gather her thoughts and decide how she was going to handle this situation. She was still kicking herself for having lost control. She’d always had a nasty temper, but after years of hard training and constant nagging she’d learned to keep it under control. Until now. Until General Hodgings had grabbed her and demanded an answer like it was his right. Her eyes narrowed as she fought back the urge to scream at him again. She owed him nothing. He was nothing but trouble and she should have heeded her nana’s advice, but at the same time, she sensed that if they worked together, they could discover something- something important, especially now that there seemed to be a connection between the inkblot paintings.
She felt Hodgins’ gaze pinned on her as she moved across the room and resumed her seat. Neatly folding her hands over her lap, she stared at the old scar on her knuckle. She’d gotten it as a child, playing hopscotch she’d tripped and as bad luck would have it scraped her hand badly.
“I need time to think, “ she blurted out. She lifted her head and met Hodgins’ icy blue stare. A shiver of awareness ran through her and she resisted the urge to tighten the robe around her. “I cannot think at your home, General. I feel like a prisoner, like a trapped mouse constantly watched by a hungry cat.”
Bethany looked away, embarrassed by the silly simile she’d come up with and slightly intimidated by Hodgins’ fixed stare. She wrung her hands, gripping them tightly against her lap. The world seemed to have gone silent. She could hear nothing except her own heavy breathing and the thump, thump, thump of her anxious heart. Never be afraid of anyone, Beth. We’re all different people in this planet of ours but in essence we are all the same. We come from the same place and we end up in the same place. Her grandfather’s words echoed in her mind. With newfound resolve she forced her gaze back on Hodgins. In the few seconds she’d taken to gather her thoughts he hadn’t moved. He still looked at her, seemingly dissecting her with his cold eyes. His posture was erect, like a soldier’s, yet it also had certain elegance to it, a poise that would have attracted all manner of women had he been in a social context. The pale long locks, the high cheekbones, the penetrating gaze. Even his half empty cup of liquor in one hand and his tightly clenched fist in the other would not have dissuaded the women searching for a husband. Bethany met his stare head on. Fortunately, she had no interest in finding a husband at the moment. Other more important matters deserved her immediate attention.
“My grandfather never told you about the painting because he didn’t have the time. He received it the day before his death. We didn’t even have time to hang it.”
Hodgins’ eyes widened almost imperceptibly. She would have missed it had she not been staring at his face so carefully.
“Are you insinuating the same person gave it to us?” Goosebumps spread over her flesh, she was insinuating more than that, but she nodded to his question.
“Who gave it to your grandfather?”
Bethany shrugged. Suddenly restless she got to her feet and strolled to the window through which Hodgins’ had been observing the world outside. Wrapping her arms around her waist, she shivered slightly. The brilliant moon illuminated the wild fields around Hodgins’ land. In the distance, trees loomed, perhaps indicating the beginning of a forest. She felt Hodgins’ presence stirring behind her, but did not acknowledge him. It was his turn to make a move. His turn to tell her something more, to say something that would keep her in the house for a few more minutes.
“That line of trees is an illusion. It does not signal the beginning of a lush forest. Behind it, everything is dead. There are only rocks and sand. That’s where I first met your grandfather.”
Bethany spun around and she found herself staring at the brass buttons on the General’s vest. Slowly, she lifted her gaze, her breath catching and her heart skipping erratically at the proximity of the tall man.
To be continued...