"Um, Bill, you're going to need this sooner or later, I think."
I whirled, startled.
My pretty downstairs neighbor Karen Hiller stood less than fifteen yards behind me, near her front door. She was astride a sack of dry kibble and a cat food dish. The smile on her gorgeous face was amused and friendly in equal measures as she presented my worn, gray leather wallet. A gust of wind blew her waist length dark hair off her bright pink terry cloth bathrobe as she patiently awaited me on a concrete slab that served as her porch.
Our two-floor beige apartment building occupied about 4,000 square feet of the asphalt my wallet had plopped on after it tumbled from my right front Levi's pocket. I could hardly be surprised such a thing had happened to me, since I had half bounded, half tripped down the central staircase in my usual morning haste. Indeed, I was fortunate Karen had been outside pouring her pet's breakfast and saw my wallet land, because my mind had already drifted to what I planned on ordering at the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles Headquarters' cafeteria.
My face burned as I jogged to her.
"Thanks," I sighed in relief. "You seem to have wound up with the tall order of looking out for me."
"You're welcome. I don't mind. It's been fun being your auxiliary guardian angel for, well, far longer than you'll ever know," she replied with a placid inflection to her quiet voice. Her green eyes were lit with an intensity I had not seen before, despite the fact she had lived in the lower corner apartment below mine in excess of a year. Briefly, I had a close up view of her ember-infused irises. Then she chuckled, and they merely sparkled with the characteristic good humor I was familiar with. "Well, Tannins, are you gonna get to work, or just gawk at me like the adorable klutz you are during most of your waking hours?"
"I'm thinking," I mused aloud with a reciprocal grin.
"I hope you'll think about accepting my open invitation to pay me a--a social visit. And no, us sweating together as we run every rural road in Marion County doesn't count. As you may recall, it's what I've mentioned every time we find ourselves using that laundry room across the parking lot simultaneously for these last few weeks." She had walked to my car with me and cast an admiring glance down at my sky blue Mustang's hood. "Well, what I meant was, I hope you do your thinking as you drive responsibly to your job, of course."
After I had opened the door and placed my right foot on the sport coupe's floorboard, I paused to wink at my attractive training partner for the past four months worth of Saturday endurance runs.
"I'm accepting your invitation," I promised. "Tonight, if that's okay."
"You've got to be joking. Naturally tonight is okay. And it's about time," Karen added gruffly as she beamed with delight.
We exchanged waves as I put my vehicle's automatic transmission into Reverse and she went back to her apartment.
As I turned into a DMV Headquarters back lot, I noticed with unease that the overcast sky had gone from ash gray to an ominous, sullen black directly above me. Once I was out of my car, I walked briskly toward the primary "Employees Only" rear entrance.
I had closed the distance between me and my routine daily habitat to perhaps a few yards when an alpine white cord of pure energy lashed out from nowhere and coiled around me in an instant. I was lobbed like a water balloon at some summer picnic before I could so much as blink. There was a soft thud as I landed, unhurt but thoroughly shaken in more ways than one, in a meadow of high orange grass which was ringed by purple boulders which I figured easily dwarfed those of Stonehenge. As I stood trying in vain to comprehend my bizarre surroundings a massive arched portal, which restrained blue lightning the same color as my Mustang, appeared in front of me.
Frankly, it was all a bit much.
"Aw, come on, what the heck?" I griped to the indifferent black sky. "This makes no sense at all, especially since I'm not even drunk!"
"Don't stress out, Bill. I simply couldn't wait until tonight to see you again, that's all," a familiar, pleasant, feminine voice explained soothingly from amid blue jagged energy bolts which careened inside the seven-foot-high portal. Then a pale, gorgeous brunette dressed in a shiny lavender hooded cloak that hung to her ankles gracefully stepped from the supernatural light show and smiled gently at me. "I trust you can forgive my interruption of your data entry tasks, handsome. But don't worry. I'll make sure all returns to its rightful place."
"Karen Hiller?" I asked, incredulous. "Is this really you? Am I dreaming?"
"Actually, it's just Kite, as in one of Earth's wild birds. That's my assigned code name, just as my cousin got Eagle. And no, you're not dreaming. You can leave your building security badge clipped to your belt loop, honey. It won't be damaged, I promise." She held out her hands, palms up. "Come, darling. I've seen your world, because that's been my job. Now I want to show you mine. Please."
Her eyes did not resemble mere green embers anymore. They seemed to be aflame.
"Wait. What? Your world? So you're not human?" I asked, dumbfounded.
"No, Bill. I'm from a planet called Yedekitti, an intelligence officer classified as a Time Defiant. Oh, and I love you."
She took a step closer to me.
I made up my mind, and put my hands in hers.
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