I slammed the phone down in disgust, and sighed. Glancing at my watch, I decided I’d better leave now if I was going to get the bus. I looked around to see if I really wanted to take any work home, or just forget it for the evening. Deciding I needed a break, I gathered only my purse, and headed out my office door.
“Still no go with your car, Vanessa?” Tony asked from behind me, making me jump.
“How did you know?” I asked, trying to be civil, when I really just felt like punching the wall.
“Your face.” he smiled. “You look ready to kill someone.”
“Well I just don’t understand how it can take all day just to look at it- now they have to order parts, and it’s old so they will be hard to find, or so he says- this will be a fortune.” I growled out, continuing my walk to the elevator.
“Maybe you need a new car?” he punched the button for me, before I could reach it.
“Tell the boss to give me a raise so I can afford one.” I snapped out, going into the elevator. Tony stuck his head through the door for a moment, that goofy smile still on his face.
“You know I’d give you a ride if Spotty didn’t have to go to the vet today.”
“I know- thanks anyway!” I shouted to him as the doors closed.

I walked out onto the street, exhaling deeply into the spring air. Spotting a bus coming my way, I started to sprint across the street, when I heard my name called. As I turned around, I heard the shriek of car brakes and people scream.
“What the hell.” I muttered, running back to where people had gathered.
“That girl was hit!”
“Did you see it?”
I elbowed my way through, curious. There on all fours was a young woman, her head bent down to the pavement, blood dripping from her face. Dressed in a military jacket and sturdy boots, she looked like a member of some rock band.
The driver got out, panicking, and was calling for help on the cell phone. I kneeled next to the girl, putting my hand on her shoulder.
“Are you okay-can you hear me?” I called out loudly to her. She turned her body slowly, and brought up her head to look at me. Blood spilled out from a cut above her eye. Peering at me from one eye, she broke into a dazed grin, and to my amazement, suddenly embraced me, burying her head into my chest.
“Vanessa Renee. I found you.” her voice sounded like she was crying. “I found you.”

“She may have taken a hit on the head.” I told the officer, as I watched the medics patch up the girls face. “I think she thinks I’m someone else.”
“Well, she’s refused to go to the hospital, and she’s not a minor, so there’s nothing more we can do here.” he said, snapping shut his notebook. “I would suggest you be the one to drive home, and just watch her for tonight.”
“What?” I asked, wondering why I had any responsibility in this.
“Doesn’t she live with you?” he asked, scratching his head.
“Pardon me?” I stammered. Live with me? The girl obviously had a concussion, poor thing.
“I asked her where her home was, and she said with you.” he looked confused. “But you two can sort that out- I’ve got another call.” he turned, talking into his two-way. “Roger.” He turned back and waved at me, obviously through with the situation.
I stood there, mouth open for a moment, until a tap on my shoulder got my attention.
“Here.” the medic shoved a sheaf of papers at me, and a set of car keys. “This is your stuff. Don’t let her take any painkillers or aspirin tonight, and wake her up occasionally to check her. Got it?”
Taking my stunned silence for an affirmative, he strode back to his vehicle, slammed the door, and pulled off slowly, revealing the girl sitting on the curb, still holding her head. I looked down at the papers.
“Madlax.” An unusual name, I know I would have remembered meeting her before…but still it sounded familiar. “Madlax Burton, age eighteen.”
“Almost nineteen.” a voice said, and I turned to see her standing next to me, a sad expression on her face. She was every bit as tall as I, and her long legs were muscular, as if she played some sort of sport.
“I can drive.” she reached for the keys, but I clamped my hand shut. She took my hand for moment, but I refused to let the keys go, so she dropped my hand and smiled at me.
“Still so stubborn, Vanessa Renee.” There was something in the way she said my name, that made me feel as if I did know her. I shook my head.
“Look, they said you can’t drive. So I will take you home.”
“The jeep is over there.” she pointed, and we walked in silence. Her gait was a little unsteady, so I took her arm, and she leaned lightly into me. The silence was comfortable, but my mind had questions. The problem was, in her condition, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get any sort of reasonable answer.
We reached a black jeep, and she nodded when I looked at her to make sure we were at the right car. We got in, and she sighed, leaned back and closed her eyes.
“So- Madlax- where do you live?” I asked, turning the key in the ignition.
“With you.” she answered softly, not opening her eyes.
I leaned forward, putting my head on the steering wheel in frustration, and looked down at the blood and tears that had stained my shirt. I was without my car, I had missed the bus, my blouse was ruined. And why this young woman seemed so attached to me, I had no idea.
“You don’t remember me.” her voice was so full of sadness, that I felt somehow guilty.
“I’m sorry, I don’t remember meeting you before.” I sat up and looked at her. The way she looked at me, with such intense sorrow, made me want to take her in my arms and comfort her. Resisting the urge, I instead dug my cell phone out of my purse.
“Look- why don’t you call your family and tell them to come pick you up at my place. We can go there for a bit and I’ll clean up.” Plus, since I didn’t have a car, the jeep would come in handy for getting home.
She smiled and nodded, but waved away my phone, taking her own out of her pocket. I pulled away and started home, but couldn’t help overhearing her conversation.
“Hey it’s me. I found her. We’re going home. But….” she sighed, tracing a pattern on the window. “She doesn’t know who I am at all.”
She fell silent for some time, occasionally nodding her head, or murmuring an affirmative as she listened. Then she let out a big sigh. “I know- I guess you’re right. I will. I will. Bye.”
“Madlax.” I was unable to stand not knowing what is going on for another minute. “How do you know me? Did I lecture at your school? Or maybe I interviewed your parents.” I mused, trying to remember a situation where we could have met.
She gave a little snort of amusement, but did not answer me, and I could tell she was trying to think of a response. Finally she sighed, closed her eyes and leaned back. She seemed tired and I felt bad for pushing her for answers.
“I will tell you later, after dinner.” she said, and turned to the window.

Refreshed from my shower and in clean clothes again, I went to check on my unusual charge, who had been sleeping on the sofa ever since we got home. I rolled my eyes upon seeing she had not taken off her boots, and went over to her. I took each foot and gently unlaced her boots and took them off, trying not to wake her.
“I missed you.” she whispered, causing me to drop the boot to the floor in surprise. It made a lump in my throat to hear it, the way she said it. I went and sat on the coffee table next to her, staring at her.
“How do I know you?” I asked myself as much as her, surprised by a mix of feelings swirling through me.
“Have you ever been to Ga-” she caught herself, shook her head, and tried again. “Have you ever been to Sonika?”
“Why would anyone go there? The economy is terrible, and there aren’t any tourist attractions, really.” I frowned. “Why would I go there?”
“You’re right. It’s a very boring place.” she closed her eyes and smiled as if remembering something.
“Why, where you born there? My apologies, I didn’t mean to insult you.” I said.
She sat up, looking around the room. Gently she took up a family picture from the end table. She studied it for a moment.
“Your parents?”
I nodded.
“They are alive?” she asked cautiously.
“They’re on holiday in Rome. What has this got to do with you?” I asked, feeling impatient.
“I’m so happy for you.” she put the picture down as if it were gold, then got up and headed for the kitchen.
I looked at the picture for a moment, wondering why my parents would matter to her, then got up and followed the sounds in the kitchen. She was busily chopping tomatoes on the cutting board. More vegetables were laid out to follow the same fate, and a box of angel hair pasta sat on the counter.
“Making dinner?” I asked, amazed at how she just made herself at home.
“I’m a better cook than you.” she said nonchalantly, scooping them into a bowl.
“What!” I exclaimed, unable to believe the nerve of her to say such a thing. She paused for a moment, as if in thought. “Of course, that could have changed too.”
“Young lady, where are your parents?” my hands were on my hips. I was going to speak to them about raising such an ill-mannered girl, and ask that they retrieve her immediately.
“Dead.” she cut sharply into the mushrooms so the knife hit the board hard. “My life hasn’t changed much.”
“Oh…I’m sorry.” the anger left me as quickly as it came. “Both- both parents?”
“Both. Mother was killed in an accident and father was….” her voice trailed off to a whisper. “Father was murdered.”
“Murdered!” I exclaimed in shock. “Oh Madlax, how horrible.”
“Yes, it was.” she said softly, and I couldn’t help but go up behind her and circle my arms around her. We stayed that way for a moment, and I became aware of her breathing, synching to the rhythm of mine. A sense of peace settled over me and the trauma of the day seemed to fade away.
“Will you hang up my jacket for me?” she asked quietly. I nodded my head, knowing somehow that this meant she would stay. And for some reason, I wanted her to.

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