“Wally, you can’t keep this up,” she whispered sleepily into his shoulder, “I need you. I need you here with me. Please, don’t go… not again…”
Wally pulled her closer to him beneath the warmth of the blanket that draped lazily over them both. He did not respond to her drowsy plea. He had grown so used to her speech, so used to her pain, but there was nothing he could do anymore. They had never really been apart for more than a few days, a week at the most, but when they were reunited, it was electric. She was his home. He was really going to miss the spark that the two of them shared. He was going to miss her.
He gazed down at the now sleeping woman lying wrapped in his arms, sighing with a mixture of relief and sadness. She was so beautiful, and too good for him. Too good to be wrapped up in his life, in his problems. She deserved better, and that was why he was leaving.
“I love you, Wenda. Always,” he choked out quietly, brushing a strand of deep, auburn hair from her face, before gently pulling his arm out from beneath her slender frame. Walking quietly to the other end of the room, Wally gabbed his wallet, his hat, and a bottle of water from the fridge, before slipping out of the apartment that they had shared for the last four months, leaving his lover, and his entire life, behind the closed door.
The cold streets of New York City were packed with people. Wally breathed into his hands, trying to get any feeling back into his frozen fingers, before shoving them into the pockets of his sweatshirt. He stuck out like a sore thumb in his red and white, striped hoodie, but it was all he had. He owned very little, even after moving in with Wenda, he couldn’t attach himself to anything. He always knew he would have to leave, he just didn’t think it would be so soon.
Wally ducked into an alley, and exited into a large, empty lot. There was an old man sitting with his back against the large, brick building, huddled beneath his filthy coat, trying to keep warm in the cold, November night.
“Wally, my boy!” the man exclaimed, reaching out his hand as Wally approached, “What brings you, lad? Come to give an old man some company?”
Wally smiled, “I wish I could say that were the case, old man. I’m here to say goodbye.”
The smile faded from the old man’s grimy face, and he stood abruptly. His mouth opened in protest, but Wally held up his hand, and he relented.
“Leaving? What about Wenda? What about your life here? You can’t keep running from-”
“I’m not running, old man. I am protecting the woman I love, and my friends, from them. I am leaving to keep you all safe!” His clenched fists trembled in the pockets of his sweatshirt, “After what happened to Wilma… I can’t put Wenda through anymore. I can’t keep looking over my shoulder, worrying about when the next move will be, or who they will get next. I can’t do it anymore.”
The old man sighed, his eyes filled with sadness, and something else. He shook his head, “What would your parents think? Running away like a coward, instead of staying and defending your people. They wouldn’t want this life for you, running from city to city like this. You belong here, son. You belong with Wenda, with others your kind. We are stronger in numbers, and losing you-”
“Losing me will be the best thing for everybody,” Wally choked through clenched teeth, “I can’t be here anymore, Whitebeard. I just can’t. I’d rather run on my own, than put everyone around me in danger. I thought you, of all people, would understand that.”
He regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth. Whitebeard had left his life behind him years ago. He was once a successful business man, with a wife and a young son, and now lived on the unforgiving streets of New York City, living the life of a vagrant to protect his identity. He had sacrificed so much to keep his family safe, so why couldn’t he understand that Wally needed to get as far away as possible? If Wally’s parents had just run, instead of staying to fight, they would still be alive. They would be there to protect him, to keep him safe. But they were gone, and had been for nearly 6 years, taken away from Wally just days before his fifteenth birthday. And poor, innocent Wilma… He missed them every day. He blamed himself every day.
“Goodbye, old man,” Wally said quietly, turning away from the old man. He did not respond.
Wally ducked back into the ally, and headed in the opposite direction of the apartment where the love of his life lay alone. Tears stung at his eyes and he quickly wiped them away. The Watchers, and their leader, Odlaw, had taken too much from him already, too much from his kind. He could not allow them to take anything more. He pulled his red and white, striped beanie from his pocket and pulled it over his mess of ebony hair. The matching hat and hoodie had been a gift from Wenda for his nineteenth birthday, while they were still living in Boston. While he secretly hated the bold colors and pattern, he wore it every day to show her how much he loved her. Hopefully, she would be able to see that he was leaving for the very same reason.
To be continued…