In hindsight, I never should have called Rhea’s bluff. Of all the people in the world, I should have known better. She and I had grown up in Mississippi. We both were dirt poor and orphans.
My parents, Jayce and Hannah Wellspring, died on while sailing at sea. I was left to live with my grandmother, Anna Marie, but she passed shortly thereafter. The doctor claimed that her heart gave out. I have always believed she passed away from sadness.
Rhea’s dad, Luke Carver, died in the War on Terror. He was killed in an ambush. An IED was listed as the cause of death. His closest friend, Abraham Watkins, had told Rhea’s mother the details. While on patrol Luke’s squad had come under fire. They were forced to separate. Luke and his comrades were killed by a buried IED.
Rhea’s mother, Twyla Carver, turned to alcohol and drugs. She ran with those who shared her interest in her newfound hobbies. Twyla died of a drug overdose in the arms of someone she had known for less than an hour.
A tragic past has never sidelined a magnificent future. The tragedy of a dark past makes for strong character. Rhea had impeccable character, a strong sense of justice, a quick wit. Her intelligence was above par.
None of that matters now.
Rhea was buried at the orphanage we both were sent to when there was no one left to care for us. I stood to the right of her casket. Apparently, she had made many friends during her career. People stood ten deep to say goodbye to Rhea. She had that kind of personality.
Mistress Tonya Donaldson, headmistress of Mother Tanya’s Home for Wayward Children, stood next to me. She had the same stern look on her face now as she did when I would terrorize my classmates when I was younger.
“How have you been, Chris?”
“Oh, you know how it goes. Some days are good, others, like today for instance, are not so good.”
“Rhea never disappointed. She was driven, determined, and accomplished her goals with such ferocity.”
“Yeah, that was her.”
“You on the other hand…”
“What about me?”
“There are rumors about you, and what you do for a living. It is far from what you were taught here.”
“Well, a man does what he must to make a living.”
“You became a savage, Christopher. Goodness dwells in light, you stalk the shadows.”
“You forgot the part about bringing punishment to the evildoers.”
Mistress Tanya frowned at me. I shrugged. The more things changed and all that. I had never been able to please her. Rhea and I tried to please her. When we first arrived in December both of us hoped to find a place where we belonged.
I didn’t know it at the time, but we had sat beside each other on the bus. I was a scrawny six-year-old with sandy blond hair. My face looked like I had been shot in the face with a freckle gun.
Rhea, was one year older than me, was taller than me, and smiled more than me. For some reason, she befriended me. We stood in line to be assigned to our rooms, in the cold December air.
She turned and faced me. She stuck out her hand and politely said, “Hi. I’m Rhea. It’s nice to meet you.”
I wiped my nose on my sleeve and shook her hand. She never flinched away, nor did she shout gross. I was at a loss.
“I think this is the beginning of a good thing, Chris.”
“I hope so.”