"Now I will tell you what I've done for you –

Fifty thousand tears I've cried.

Screaming, deceiving, and bleeding for you;

And you still won't hear me."

"Going Under"


"'Barrett started with two as the 'first multitude' and considered it a number of mutual love and charity,'" I closed the book with a snap and grinned at my companion, triumphant.

"I hardly think you can depend on numerology to settle the question of whether or not you should live at Number Two, Dowers Drive," Byron crossed his arms and scowled at me.

"It's a good sign," I stuck stubbornly to my guns.

"You're too superstitious for your own good, Aisha," Byron growled, his dark eyebrows uniting in a single line across his forehead. "I still think you shouldn't be living in an old house by yourself.

"You're just sore 'cause I refuse to move down with you to Camp Lejune," I returned his scowl from over my coffee cup. "I'd rather take my chances in a quiet little town, than in a base full of Marines."

"Why did I ever think that when you left the Navy you'd stop actin' like a sailor?" Byron gave me the evil eye before dumping half a container of sugar into his own cup of black sludge.

"What's that supposed to mean?" I bristled.

"It means that you're acting like a stubborn little ass."

"Go to hell, Byron."

"Already been there," he slurped his coffee with a satisfied smacking of his lips. "It's a prerequisite for being a Marine."

"And you know damn well that very little love is lost between me and the Marine Corps," I snapped.

"We've been through this before, Aisha," Byron sighed deeply, stretching out his legs underneath the tiny café table. "Just because one Marine hurt you, doesn't make all of us bad. I mean," he set down his coffee and spread his large hands wide. "Look at me. I'm a Marine and yet we're best friends."

I pursed my lips and took a cautious sip of my coffee to avoid replying Byron's comment. He spoke the truth, though – despite my personal vendetta against one particular "jar head," the whole Corps wasn't completely comprised of underhanded bastards.

I just couldn't quite bring myself to fully believe that.

"I'm not going to Camp Lejune and that's final," I finally sniffed, setting my jaw. "No offense to you, Byron, but I'd rather stay here in Shiloh."

I paused and then added quietly –

"And try to pick up the leftover pieces of my life."

"You need to stop living in the past, Aisha," Byron replied, just as softly.

"Have you seen the house, Byron?" I changed the subject abruptly – as I always did when my beloved friend tried to reason with my broken heart.

"You've shown me pictures," he had learned long ago not to try to force me into facing the fear and bitterness that still ate me like an undetectable cancer.

"It's the house I've always wanted," I charged forward enthusiastically. "It's at least sixty years old."

"It needs some serious renovation, from what you've told me," Byron shifted in his seat, leaning back and nursing his cup.

"After Grandma's death, I have more than enough money at my disposal," I waved a hand dismissively. "In fact, that's one of the reasons I bought the house. I want a home with character – something that I can call my own. A home that will reflect the kind of person I am."

"Just be careful, Aisha," Byron caught my attention with his piercing blue eyes.

"I learned to budget my money from the best. I'm not going to go bankrupt –" I started to laugh, but the look on Byron's face killed any thought of humor.

"I'm not talking about your money, Aisha," his words hurt, hard and sharp. "I can't argue against superstition, but here's something for you to think about."

He leaned forward, his eyes and face intense; I felt a sudden fear I couldn't quite explain.

"I used to know someone who was just as fascinated with numerology as you are. And I'll never forget what he told me. I don't know who the hell this Barrett is that you quoted, but Pythagoras believed 'duality was a devil, and an evil intellect.'"