Moe, Frank and Sin sat at a round table in the cafeteria. Over pizza, they talked about the day’s events. Frank spoke up, sheepishly, “I called her Mike.”
Moe and Sin stared at him incredulously. Moe set down his soda sharply, the can almost crunching from the impact, and exclaimed, “You did what? That is his name for her, he is the only one allowed to use it.”
Frank’s lip quivered slightly as Moe’s immenseness began to shadow him. “I think I covered it up well. I wasn’t thinking. I told her I thought I was looking for a man.”
Sin shook her head. “She’s smarter than that. Now she knows there’s a connection with you and him. She is like you in that respect, Frank. Her mind draws conclusions and links from seemingly unlinked items together. Most of the time, she’s right too, just like you.” Sin huffed and looked at Moe. “What should we do?”
“Nothing at the moment. Let’s see how tomorrow goes.” They continued talking over their day and waved at Mikaela when she walked in. She waved back and made her way over to the buffet. She smiled when she saw the pizza laid out. With a slice of what looked like Acapulco Gold, and some iced tea on her tray, she headed over to their table.
Sin quickly changed the topic of conversation when she saw Mikaela walk up. “Hey Mikaela. How are you doing?”
Mikaela slid into a chair and force a smile. “Okay. I wish I had known he was here up front, but what can I do.”
Frank looked up, “What would you have done differently?”
Mikaela gave him a knowing look, “Um, I really didn’t have a choice on coming here, now, did I Frank?”
Frank grimaced. He was the one who gathered her and her things to bring her here.
“Frank, no hard feelings. But, you could have just asked.” Mikaela shrugged. “Thank you by the way for bringing my pack as well as some of my things from home. I miss home, hopefully Rich is taking care of the cats while I’m away and not worried.”
Frank piped up, “Rich won’t even realize it, he isn’t due back until Saturday. The cats are both okay — I made sure to leave them food and water before…..” his voice trailed off.
Mikaela stared at him a moment. How did he know Rich’s schedule? Instead of getting upset however, she smiled at him, as if all was forgiven. “Thanks, Frank.” She turned to Moe and, nodding her head to the mountains visible through the windows, “Is that where we’re headed tomorrow?”
Moe looked at her and the rest of the table. “Kind of. First, all four of us are going, together. No more lone wolf who has the world by the tail stunts. Agreed, Mikaela.”
She paused a moment, then replied, “Of course. It’s been too long anyway; I wouldn’t know the way.”
Moe began to fill her in on the plan for tomorrow as the team continued to finish their evening meal. It was a complex weave of hiking, warnings of encountering wild things, and caving. After an hour, he finished going through the plan.
“Whew, I can’t believe how crazy this plan is. But, why am I here? I don’t see anything special I can help with.”
Sin, Moe, and Frank looked at each other, then back at her. Sin piped up, “You’re the one with the tattoo and ring. You tell us.”
Mikaela looked at her hand and held it up. “This? What does this have to do with any of this.”
Frank spoke up this time, “We don’t know. We just know the symbols on your tattoo line up with the last part and, only you have that.”
She looked at the tattoo and then back up. “I’m not the only one with this tattoo. Moe, tell them, if his didn’t stop it from collapsing, why would mine open it back up?”
Moe looked around. “We don’t understand either, but we tried everything else. One of the volunteers even got the same tattoo as you, but it didn’t work. We think there was something embedded when you got it.”
Mikaela exhaled, her chest heaved and her shoulders lowered in disbelief. She almost rolled her eyes, but realized her tattoo was pulsing again under the ring. “Well, I think we should go get some rest if we’re heading out at first light. Moe, can I talk with you privately a moment.”
Mikaela and Moe stood up, dropped off their trays, and headed back out to their sleeping quarters. Sin and Frank hung back to give them space.
Mikaela turned her head towards Moe as they walked. “When this is over, I need you to not tell him I was here, or that I was any part of this. Can you promise me that? I plan on leaving as soon as this is done. I don’t want to cause any problems for him, and well, it just will be better.” Her voice quivered.
“You made up your mind, then?” Moe asked, looking at her hands. “You don’t have to yet, you know that.”
“I never want to have to make that choice. I never have carried through with making that choice…you know this. I can’t break….” she stopped herself mid-sentence. A tear ran down her cheek.
Moe lifted her chin. “That’s why we need you to do this. That, right there.”
She found herself standing in front of her room facing Moe. She forced a smile. “Thanks.” She quickly hugged Moe, then turned, entered her room, and closed the door behind herself.
Moe looked down, tsked at himself, then looked up at the closed door and raised his hand to the door. He almost knocked, but he lowered his hand, turned, and walked away.