By Elizabeth Cooper

I wake to the loud bang of gunfire. Jumping instinctively out of bed, ducking low across the hardwood floor. I peer slowly over the heating vent down to the street three stories below. The shooting seems to have stopped for now, I hear the rustling of the gentle breeze against the trees outside. I barely make out a lone figure, lying prone on the sidewalk, he wrestles against the pavement clutching his side. Maybe, there was a drive by shooting?

Quickly, I toss on a pair of jeans, grabbing them off the floor and throw on a green t-shirt. My apartment door slams against the wall, as I race down the stairs. Throwing my body against the front door, I push the glass open. Glancing around the street, looking, searching for the figure I saw lying on the sidewalk below. Desperately needing to find whoever they were.

There a few feet down the road, I see the figure, dressed all in black, lying motionless. I’m unsure of whether or not I should proceed. This kind of unfamiliar territory would have landed me a large, red X in training. I can’t help, but feel drawn closer and closer, until suddenly I am kneeling by his side. Pulling back his black hood, I reveal the brown furrowed eyebrows of someone in pain. Questions swiftly cross my mind; as if I’m being bombarded by my parents. Why hasn’t anyone stopped to help him? Why am I helping him? I should run, leave this behind me, like I was taught many years ago, but I need to know. Can I save him? I search his body looking for the gunshot wound.

“Who are you?” The man asks, opening his eyes for the first time since I’ve knelt beside him. “Are you my guardian angel?”

“I am far from an angel,” I reply, watching the reel of my life, quickly cascade across my mind. I find the source of his pain, the gunshot wound to the left of his belly button, gushing blood forth as the man coughs. This kind of wound would have pierced his liver. I need to get him to a hospital fast, if he is going to survive this. My instincts scream against me as I help the man to his feet, lifting his fragile body into the front seat of my car. I know these moments are going to change my life forever, whether for good or bad I am not sure.

The race to the hospital begins and my heart beats rapidly in my chest. I’m not sure what to say, what to do, every part of me knows I should have walked away, I never should have looked out the window this morning. The man next to me groans in his seat as take a sharp right turn, blood drips down his pants and onto the leather seats of my Mercedes. The hospital is just a few more blocks away.

‘Why are you doing this?” The man asks, sharply inhaling with each breath, the effort to speak must be painstakingly difficult.

“Honestly, I really don’t know, everything in me says I am making the wrong decision. Yet, I couldn’t just leave you to die on the pavement alone.” I think back to the first time my mother stopped to help a man on the side of the road. She was always the nurturing and caring type, always extending a helping hand. He had been hit by a car while riding his bike, gently she lifted him into her car and stayed in the hospital until he came around. I’ve become just like her. No matter how hard I have tried to harden myself I am still my mother’s child. “Why was someone shooting at you?”

“I’m a witness to an upcoming trial against the Victory League. I guess there’s a lot of people that want me dead.”

The Victory League, I knew there was a reason my subconscious was telling me to run. This man is going to trial against everything I believe in. He will condemn my cause, make me a fugitive.

“Aww,” he says. “You want me dead too?”

“Ah, no. I…I just…”

“You just think I am making the wrong decision. Have you ever thought about the other side of the story?”

“No I haven’t.” I was raised, trained and conditioned into the Victory League ever since I could walk. I don’t know another way of life. I don’t know how else to live.

“I see,” he says. “They are close to you.”

I pull into the hospital parking lot, quickly stopping in front of the entrance to the emergency department. I push open the man’s door and lift him out of my car.

“Why are you still helping me? You should've left me to die like everyone else.”

“I don’t know, I just feel the need to help you, whether or not you will ruin my life, I will find out later.”

We walk through the doors and are instantly surrounded by doctors, nurses with clip boards. Everyone starts asking a million questions, then poking and prodding the man standing next to me. They lift him onto a stretcher and begin pushing him through the hospital. I stay at the door, knowing I have done everything I can for now. The man reaches over and holds onto my hand, looking up into my eyes with his dark green emeralds.

“Stay with me,” he says, pleading for companionship. I grab onto his hand once again pressing back all of my instincts, forgetting that this man is standing against me. I follow as the hospital team pushes the stretcher into surgery and wait outside to hear the news. I can’t believe I am here, sitting in a hospital waiting. I missed my mother’s last days, I never got to say good bye to her, yet I’m sitting here on the brink of my seat, waiting for a total stranger to come out of surgery. A stranger that may just end everything I’ve ever known, he could end the Victory League for good.

The doors open just a few hours later and I stand to see the now hoodless man asleep on the stretcher. His brown hair now delicately pushed to the side of his forehead The Doctor waves me over, as if I am someone important to this man lying before me.

“He made it through surgery,” the doctor says. “We had to take out part of his liver but he will survive.”

“I…you don’t understand I don’t even know this man.”

“Are you Victoria Knight?”

“Yes, but I’m not sure…how do you know my name?”

“He named you his guardian for the next few days while he recovers in the hospital. You are responsible for Peter.”

“But…is that his name…I don’t know how he knows me, but I just met him. I found him on the sidewalk nearly dead.”

“I don’t know,” the doctors says. “One way or another your information was put down for him, you will have to take care of him for now. I have to be on my way, there are many other surgeries that require my attention.”

I watch as the doctor walks away and I look back to the stretcher. Silently, I follow the nurses pushing him into the recovery unit. What is happening? How does this Peter know me, yet I was debating whether or not to even save him.

I sit down in the chair opposite his bed, I can’t leave now. There are a lot of questions that need answering before this day is over. I watch as his chest slowly rises and falls with the steady breathing that comes with sleep. He’ll have a lot to answer for when he wakes up.

I think back to the moment I decided to run down the stairs and find the mystery man on the sidewalk lying dead. I remember the pull my body felt towards him. Why is this happening? I have been trained to know better than this. The League has taught me to forget my past, to move onto the future. Yet, my past seems to be surrounding me these days. I have to find out just who this man is when he wakes up. I can’t leave before I have some answers.

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