Many thoughts crept into my mind after lunch. Regardless of what my people wanted me to do, I still felt a desire to honor them. Honor had always meant a lot to my people, even before we forgot our emotions. Alice was right, humans were aliens to me, and I had a duty to respect the wishes of my superiors. I had to obey orders. To disobey them would mean the end of my career as an Observer. Experiencing humanity, however, had radically changed my perceptions. To Alice, or any other Observer, the objective of forcing Joan to love them would be a simple matter, and had I not forgotten my true identity when stepping into Jacob, it would have been simple for me as well.

As I stood in the cul-de-sac that night, I wished, for a moment, that I hadn't forgotten my identity when stepping into Jacob.

There, in that moment, I had come to a fork in the road. I could continue life as a human, happy, in love, and together with Joan, but with a deep-seeded guilt for what I'd done to her forever plaguing me. Then I could return home, after she died and the mission no long called for my presence on earth, and all of the guilt would fall away from me like leaves in the autumn. Or I could return home then; I could disobey my orders, forfeit my career, and with my emotions stripped again from me, I would never understand why I had disobeyed the order. The thought seemed horrible to me - dishonoring myself and forever wondering why.

Moments had come, when I looked at Joan, where I had become so deeply intoxicated by her that I vowed to myself that one day I would have her. Well, that day had come. I could do it. I could hold her in my arms that night, just as I had dreamed of doing every night before since I'd met her.

I picked up my bike and left it behind a tree. Then I walked back to the edge of the cul-de-sac, and I looked up at the stars. I hadn't made a decision yet, but I knew I had to talk to Joan before making it. It went through my head a thousand times at a speed surely faster than light. I rehearsed the words I would use in my head. My heart felt like it was made of led. A hurricane swarmed my stomach. The stars looked odd on that alien world. Never in my life had they looked so far away. They seemed to speak to me, each its own silent nothing, whispering into eternity. I focused on one, relaxed, and closed my eyes. I reached out to Joan with every thought and fiber of my being, and when I opened my eyes, I found myself standing in her backyard.

I stood, looking away from the house, at a trampoline where Joan lied. Scanning her house, I found her parents and sisters asleep. Joan hadn't yet noticed me. She seemed lost in the stars. How funny that the stars that bemused her had sent me to decide her fate.

Silence ruled the moment. I knew any movement I made, she would hear. Aside from nervously trembling, I hesitated to move. Suddenly, all the knowledge and wisdom I had attained as an interstellar observation agent, escaped me, and I was nothing more than an infatuated teenage human. Hoping to calm myself, I inhaled slowly and deeply, but I ultimately failed.

For at least two minutes, I tried to take a step toward her, but couldn't quite work up the nerve to do it. Then, finally, I did, and at the first step, Joan flung her eyes at me.

With a gasp, she flew off the trampoline and stopped and stared at me. "What the hell are you doing?" she asked slowly. She moved easily around the trampoline toward the house.

As she reached for the door, I threw my hand up and locked it from the inside. I watched her try to open it. "Please," I said softly, "don't be scared. I just want to talk."

Realizing she couldn't open the door, she slowly took a few steps back. "What do you want from me?" she asked, anger conjuring within her, ready to explode.

Breathing did not come easy. Trembling, I found myself intoxicated by her. The moonlight painted her skin a ghostly color. I could feel the anxiety coursing through her body. She might have feared me had I not calmed her with my thoughts. It seemed funny to me that I could relax her, but I could not relax myself

As I opened my mouth to speak, my mind went blank. Every word I had rehearsed on the way there had slipped away from me. Silence grew longer. The seconds went by like the wind, each one frustrating me further as I struggled frantically to compile sentences. Finally, I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath. I let the words come to me from the darkness.

"I'm in love with you." I opened my eyes.

Joan did not move.

"I...wish...that I didn't." I paused for each word to determine whether I should say it or not, and even if I did not like the word, I said it for lack of another. "I see what I've done to you, and...I-I wish I hadn't." Closing my eyes again, I breathed in deep. When I opened my eyes and saw her, I melted into her. It felt as though every ounce of me fell into her, as though a dam blocking my emotions had burst and engulfed her.

When I finally got my mind working, I thought I might start from the beginning. "When I first saw you...well, I just...I had to know who you were. ...I couldn't-I'm a very nervous person, so when I tried to talk to you...I couldn't." I sighed and looked away from her. "I...I-I don't know...how...it turned into what it did. I didn't mean to...you know...follow...you, the way I did." At that point, the guilt started to set in, and I looked down. Fiddling with my fingers, I had to hold back tears welling up in my eyes. My voice lost its shaky fragility and became soft and low. "Before I knew it...I was absolutely obsessed with you. ...When I didn't see you, I had to see you." I looked back up at her. "And...every time I did, I told myself that I wouldn't do it anymore." I shook my head. "You were like a drug! It was as though I had no choice at all. When I could see you, I just..." I paused, thoughts I refused to acknowledge suddenly crossing my mind, "...I had to see you." Every thing I could remember about my mission and what the Council had ordered me to do, and everything that I had done, all seemed to fit. I had known it the moment Alice restored my memories, but I had restricted it from my conscious until that moment. I asked myself the question I never wanted to ask. What if I don't really love her?

Joan crossed her arms and looked down at the ground. She shook her head. "Jake, I'm flattered - really, I am, but...you shouldn't be here." She sighed and threw her arms into the air. "God, you don't even know me!."

I put the question aside as she spoke to me. "I do know you. Every time I look at you, I see you. I look into your eyes and I see something there. ...I don't really know what it is, but I know, when I look at you, that I'm just suppose to know you. It feels right. It feels more right than anything I've ever felt."

For a while we just stood there, staring at each other. No matter how hard she tried, she just couldn't understand. She wanted to - she wanted to figure out the whole situation so that she could put it away and move on.

She looked down again. "I don't know what it is you see in me, Jake, but whatever you think I might feel for you, I don't. I won't lie to you. You need to get over me and move on. This isn't right - following me everywhere, showing up here, now...it isn't right."

I sighed and looked down. Frowning, I admitted, "Maybe you're right, but there's a lot more going on here than you know," I looked back at her, "a lot more than I can tell you."

I loved her. That thought held more solid in my mind than anything. I had to prove it to her, to Alice, and to myself. "I love you," I said. "I do, and whatever it takes for you to see that, is what I am going to do."

I made my decision then, and without giving it another thought, I moved closer to her. She tried to move, but I did not let her. I didn't let her scream or say anything. Slowly, I reached my hand to her face. Caressing her velvet skin, I asked her to forgive me. Then I closed my eyes. A blue light escaped between my hand and her cheek. When it faded, her eyes closed, and my deed was done.