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Footsteps...

It was Wednesday and the open market was bustling. Though a light rain started to fall, no one seemed to mind. Jackson slowly made his way down the narrow cobblestone alleyway and pulled his coat tighter around him. Sweat was dripping down his face and he flinched in pain when he lifted his arm to wipe his brow. He strained his eyes as he walked towards the crowd. It was the one place he did not want to be, but it was also his only chance.

Jackson’s slim build and narrow features were common enough that he didn’t stand out in a crowd. His affinity with dark clothing was by design. His life depended on his appearance being forgettable and he gladly lived a life in the shadows. Solitude for some was a form a torture, but for him, it was how he retained his sanity.

A glint of light reflecting off a metal-roofed house bounced back in Jackson’s eyes. He squinted and his heart skipped a beat. He was not used to be so disabled and he hated the way that his body was failing him. He’d been shot at plenty of times, but this one was the worst. He was prepared that it would end him, but not until he finished his last mission.

He quickly stepped back into the shadows and gained focus. He looked through the crowd and felt an overwhelming sense of relief when he saw her, “She’s still alive.” He whispered under his breath and with a new surge of energy, he strode into the crowd towards her. She had grown since he’d last seen her. She was no longer the four-year-old innocent beauty who’d filled his memories of his past life, she was now a young woman. When he reached her, the small scar above her left eye confirmed what he already knew in his heart. Anna. She looked back at him and for the first time in his life, he felt pain unlike ever before, for as she passed him, she did not recognize him.

He did not have the emotional strength to turn and watch her walk away from him, not after all that he had gone through to see her one last time. He instead listened to her footsteps along the cobblestone floor as it got fainter and fainter. Only when could no longer hear her did he continue walking through the market on his way out of the small town.

He convinced himself that it was enough to have seen her. He made himself believe that he didn’t need her embrace. Her touch. Her smile. He nodded, reassuring himself that she loved him still, that he meant something to her, even after all he had put her through.  His wound was pulsing now and the pain too great to raise his arm and wipe away his tear.

His heart was beating in his ears drowning out the other sounds around him. A faint car horn sounded muffled, two children laughing and running sounded like a whisper. Jackson felt himself starting to fade. His face was now as pale as the moon and wet with both sweat and tears. His vision blurred and as he looked for a wall to lean on, he heard it, faint at first but then growing in volume and speed. Just as he felt himself falling, the footsteps stopped short and caught him as he collapsed to the ground…



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