"So, we have a deal?" I asked my fifth offer of the day, with a forced smirk on my face as he smiled, reaching out for my outstretched hand.
"You drive a hard bargain Mr.Carter, but my company is willing to do absolutely anything for the property of that auto shop."
My heart sunk, but I knew this is what I had to do, "Just be gentle with the wrecking ball on her."
"I assure you the death of your auto shop of ten years shall be quick and painless," he joked.
"Well, I guess this is it? I suppose the money should be transferred into my account by next week?" I asked, feeling a black hole forming in my chest from the loss.
"Yes sir, I will have someone come by your house over the weekend so you can sign the final papers, then the money will be immediately transferred." I was about to thank him until he interrupted me, "The whole million dollars and change...that is."
He was grinning, as if this amount of money was what he carried around in his pocket, but as the amount fell from his lips without a stutter, I knew that this was the right guy to sell my shop to.
"Thank you," I whispered, avoiding eye contact, knowing this is the hardest thing I've ever had to let go of in a long time.
"No Elijah, thank you."
As I made my way out of the office in Manhattan, I decided to take the long way back to the station and walk a couple of avenues over to the Twin Towers Memorial.
I took a deep breath, holding back tears as they formed in the rim of my eyelids. I traced over the names engraved on a cold stone, "Imogen and Bella Carter, we love and miss you."
My wife and daughter.
I shook the memory when the bittersweet, bone chilling wind hit me in the face.
"Time to get back to Brooklyn," I muttered, making my way down the steps of the nearest train station that I could get to due to the freezing, forty mile an hour winds that were picking up.
As I miserably swiped my metro card, walking towards the Q-line platform, I stopped dead in my tracks. My heart sunk into my stomach, air getting caught in my throat as blue eyes came into my vision.
She wasn't dressed fancy, not like how the business women dress, head-to-toe in fancy clothing with a Louis Vuitton bag or the 'oh so fabulous' Juicy Couture crap that I see women cling to everyday.
No...she was sitting on the floor, shivering, wrapped in a dirty looking, moldy, must smelling blanket.
I didn't know what to say.
"Clare Edwards?" I asked, second guessing myself that my high school sweetheart was currently similar looking to a homeless person.
I remember her as a smart, kind, loving girl. I was baffled and shocked as to how this was how she turned out to be. If I recall, my high school years were more unstable than hers, how could she end up like...like this?
She glanced up at me, then back down at the floor, not saying a word. With the way this was going, or the way she was acting, I couldn't really tell if she was breathing or not from the tense look on her face.
"Can you at least nod your head so this way I know I'm not crazy and I'm currently eye to eye with Clare Edwards?" She took a deep breath in, and I kneeled down in front of her.
At that moment, I was staring at her, waiting for a response.
People around me didn't acknowledge us, probably too busy to even glance in our direction, and from the moment she hesitantly nodded her head, her dead curls bobbing up and down, I knew exactly what I had to do.
She sat beside me on our way back to Brooklyn, still not a word had escaped her chapped, quivering lips.
My hands were folded tightly together, resting on my lap as my palms began to sweat excessively due to the uncomfortable tension between us. Although we were sitting a short distance apart, I felt like we were both mentally hovering over each other.
As I lifted my head slowly, I glanced at her in a state of confusion. She was so intelligent in high school, top in every class she ever took. After we broke up, we stopped talking and she started going out with another guy.
From there on in, I couldn't recall specific details of anything.
After I found out she had moved on, the only choice I had was to move on too. I wasn't going to sit around the rest of my life, just waiting by my front door back at my parents house for her to come back to me.
Sadly, we both knew that wasn't going to happen.
I sighed, becoming frustrated with the silence between us. I cleared my throat obnoxiously loud to grab her attention, then whispered, "If I'm planning on letting you stay at my house, the least you could do is talk to me."
Even over the blasting music, crying babies, and blabbering teenagers on this train, I could still hear Clare's racing heart beat.
She was nervous.
"I'm Clare," she whispered faintly, biting back her bottom lip, "My last name is Edwards."
At that moment, I was confused as to why she was on a first name basis with me. Of course I knew her name, why was she telling me that? I sighed, glancing around, trying to distract myself from her but I just couldn't take the racing questions going through my head.
"I'm Elijah, Eli for short," I played along with her, trying to get a giggle out of her, or at least a frickin' smile, but she wasn't cracking.
It was like talking to a statue; unresponsive.
"I'm homeless." She mumbled lowly, but just loud enough for me to hear her. My heart sunk into my stomach, a churning feeling occurring, making me want to vomit all over the floor.
"W-why?" I asked.
She smiled, tears forming in the rims of her dark, baggy eyelids, "Because."
She scoffed, "This is the thanks I get in my hopeless attempt to bury my past alive."
Her voice was dark, sinister even.
After a minute of silence, I noticed we were one stop away from getting off, and I glanced at her, noticing her bare, dirty feet hanging limply right before they could touch the train floor.
Maybe that's why people were staring...
"Put these on," I ordered, taking my shoes off and placing them under her feet. She hesitantly placed her feet inside. Although my shoe size was bigger, it was better than walking around bare foot.
People stared at my socks, and several couldn't keep their eyes off of Clare as she clutched her raggedy, dirty, mold smelling blanket clinging tightly to her chest.
As we approached my house in Park Slope, I glanced beside me and realized Clare was still standing by the gate. If you didn't know who she was, you would assume she was made out of stone from her emotionless face.
"What are you, a vampire? Do I have to invite you inside?" I asked sarcastically, trying to lighten up the mood as she whispered, "I haven't been inside an actual house, or even talked to a real person in a year and two months."
I smirked, opening my door wider for her so she could come inside as I said, "There's a first for everything, right?"