Waking up with that vague feeling of emptiness, as if you have lost something that you cannot define. The light coming in through that corner where the curtain isn’t entirely closed. Wondering what on earth could have hit you and given you that incredible headache. Listening to the sounds of footsteps coming and retreating. Wanting to stay in bed all day, why would you even want to get out and do things?
Her father poked his head around the door. ‘Get up, Paloma. There’s lots of work to do and someone I’d like you to meet.’
‘Later,’ she said, hiding her face in the pillow. ‘My head. It kind of hurts. A lot.’
‘Do you want something against the pain?’ As she nodded he went to get her a painkiller and a glass of water, almost as if they were just an ordinary family. Well, they were, of course.
‘Are you sure Nathaniel is alright?’ she asked after she drank it. ‘I had the weirdest dream about him last night.’
‘Of course. What did you dream?’
She put the glass down and drew the blankets over her face. ‘I don’t remember. Why doesn’t he ever call? Remind me to kill him when I see him next. What use is a brother who never calls?’
‘You know he loves you. We both do,’ he said before walking out, leaving her to slumber and to despise the pounding of the hammer that came down on her head each time her heart beat.
It was hours later when she finally got out of bed and got dressed, investigating herself in the mirror. She reached the conclusion she looked like hell, as if she’d just survived the Spanish flue. Whatever, she thought. There’s still the cause to attend to.
She walked through the hallway, a little unsteady on her feet, until she got to the training room. There was someone in there she had never seen before. The trainee. He was a thin man with a tattoo on his left shoulder and clothes that looked as if he’d worn them for a week. He jumped a little when she closed the door behind her, but managed to smile anyway.
'My name is Paloma. Paloma Guerra Gomez,' she said, extending her hand.
There was a little pause before he responded. ‘Sam Smith,’ he said.
‘Where have I heard that name before?' she mused. 'Come to think about it, you do look a bit familiar. Have we met before?’
Minutes later she was pointing a gun at him.
‘I can help you,’ Cole said. ‘Let me help you. Let me help you remember who you are.’
‘Help me remember who I am? Who do you think you are? I know perfectly well who I am. I am the daughter of the Rhadamantus. And it’s just my head. It hurts. I don’t need a doctor, and I most definitely don’t need you. Now stop moving.’
But he didn’t.
‘I will shoot you,’ she repeated, gripping the gun even more firmly, her hands turning white.
‘Go ahead,’ he said, standing before her. ‘I don’t mind.’
‘You don’t mind,’ she repeated slowly. ‘Maybe you meant this: you have lost your mind? You don’t mind if I kill you?’
‘I really don’t,’ he said, ‘because I’ve finally found you, Paloma.’
She just looked at him, her eyes wide with amazement. ‘You are one weird fellow, soldier.’
‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘I get that a lot. Are you still going to shoot me?’
‘I’m considering it,’ she said. ‘Depends on your next move.’
He did another step, ignored the flaming anger on her face, and embraced her, pressing the gun against his chest. She nearly pulled the trigger as he put her arms around her, the side of his face touching hers. ‘My god,’ she exclaimed, pushing him away and swirling him around against the wall. ‘Something is wrong with you. Should I call your shrink or something?’
‘You still don’t remember?’ he asked.
‘No,’ she said, ‘so what’s next? How will you make me remember my secret identity?’
He shrugged. ‘You could start by putting the gun down. I assure you am not here to hurt you.’
‘Yeah,’ she smiled, ‘let me put the gun away while I’m alone in a room with a madman. I don’t think so.’
‘Fine,’ he said, ‘whatever you want, Paloma.’
‘Don’t sulk like a baby,’ she admonished, ‘you’re lucky I haven’t killed you yet.’
‘Why haven’t you?’ he asked.
She took another glance at him and sniffed. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘I’d like to. It’s just that this gun isn’t really loaded. Protocol.’ She threw it over her shoulder. ‘Don’t worry though,’ she said, retrieving another one from her leg in one fluent move, ‘this one is.’ And she loaded it with another one.
‘Paloma,’ he said.
‘Yeah?’ she repeated, still smiling.
‘I love you,’ he said.
She started laughing. ‘You what now?’
‘You wouldn’t believe me anyway,’ he said, stepping closer, kissing her so suddenly she didn’t have any time to respond. It startled her so much she dropped the loaded gun, which came down with a heavy clunk. As she pulled herself loose she frowned, brought her hand to her mouth, and then, on a second thought, looked down. She started diving for it, but he brought his foot down on it. ‘Damn you!’ she shouted, grabbing his leg as they both tumbled on the floor. She pinned him down again with an unexpected force and hit him in the face. ‘Who do you think you are anyway?’ As she started reaching for the gun again, he caught her off guard, and they rolled over the floor, both reaching for the gun, until he managed to grab her wrists.
‘I don’t like you very much,’ she confided in him, as she struggled to break free.
‘You tried to kill me,’ he answered. ‘I think I liked the old Paloma better too.’
'You are a madman,' she hissed.
'If I let you go, will you stop trying to kill me?' he tried. When she didn't reply, he continued: 'Paloma, listen to me: we need to talk about Hiroshima.'
'What about him?' she replied, and finally broke loose.
'He is a traitor.'
They both stood there for a moment, neither one willing to break their stare first, neither one sure of their next move.
'Well, that should be interesting,' Paloma commented finally. 'You should have started with that.'