Episode 16: "The Power Of Love, Part II"
Part One

It had been storming all evening. Thunder boomed, warning of worse weather to come. The rain fell relentlessly, shielding any vision from clarity all around the University of North Florida library.

"Cory, wait! We need to talk," 21-year old Lana Whitmire ran out into the darkness outside the library. "Please, stop." She caught up with her boyfriend Cory Danielson.

"Why? Why should I?" Cory turned around to face her, his dark bangs falling into his eyes. "You're only going to continue to chastise me. Why should I stand for this abuse?"

"Why didn't you call me last night? I waited for you," Lana looked up at him pleadingly, blinking constantly to keep the water droplets from blurring her eyes.

"I've waited for you for six months, Lana," Cory said through clenched teeth. "I have needs, you know. Right now, I need to be with someone who recognizes those needs."

"I recognize your needs," Lana contradicted him indignantly.

"Maybe you do, but I don't even know what you need. You don't open up to me. You won't let me through to you," His opaque green eyes burned in the darkness.

Lana bit her lip, fighting the urge to pour her heart's pain into his hands. She knew he wouldn't understand. "It's so complicated. I need more time-"

"-And I need to stop wasting time. You know, I thought I was falling in love with you," Cory paused, his eyes boring through hers. "Now I don't think you're even capable of loving someone." Lana was too dumbfounded to speak. Her lips parted in awe of the harshness of Cory's words. Her hair stuck to her face, drenched from the downpour. "I guess there really isn't much else to say," Cory looked away from her and started to walk around. "Good-bye, Lana."

Lana didn't reply. She only watched as Cory's back faded into the sheets of rain. Lana's salty tears joined the rain streaming down her cheeks. She looked around the dark, empty parking lot before setting off on the long walk back to the dormitories. She was only a quarter of the way home when the sound of her footsteps were joined by another pair behind her. Not looking back, she quickened her pace. The footsteps behind her gained speed. She looked over her shoulder in time to see a hand grab on to her.

"Hold up, sweet thing," A deep voice slurred nastily. "Or you might not get home in one piece." A man jerked Lana around to face him and pushed her up against the wall of the building. He wore an orange ski mask, a black turtleneck sweater, and worn blue jeans. His black eyes burned like hot coals through the eyeholes of the mask as he glared at her threateningly. He held her chin with one hand, a knife in the other. "Open up your purse and hand over cash and credit cards." His eyes narrowed menacingly. Lana's fingers curled around the strap of her bag. She unzipped the purse carefully. "HURRY UP!" The man yelled into her ear. Startled, Lana dropped her purse, spilling its contents all over the wet cement.

The man's eyes glowed with fury. "You clumsy bitch," he growled. "You bend down and pick that shit up." He pressed the blade of the knife against her neck. "Do it fast, do it-" He stopped mid-sentence and turned his head when the sound of a motor grew louder and closer. Lana frightfully studied his face, realizing her attacker's plans had started to go awry. She prayed the motor would save her from being mugged, or being killed.

Part Two

The man turned back to Lana. "Well? Pick that shit up. NOW!" Lana's lips trembled and she ducked down slowly to the ground. She grabbed her lipstick and compact first, shoving them back into her purse. She was about to pick up her hairbrush when the man impatiently ordered, "Just empty out the damn wallet!"

"I wouldn't do that if I were you." Another deep voice rose above the beats of the rain drops. Lana looked behind her attacker and saw the headlights of a golf cart. The vehicle was covered in a clear canopy protecting its tiny cabin from the storm. The canopy distorted a clear view of the cart's driver, who shouted "And you, sir, should stay right where you are. I've already contacted campus police. They should be here any second. You're in for some hard time."

Upon hearing those words, Lana's attacker ran off into the darkness. The cart's driver didn't bother chasing after him. Instead, he lifted the bottom of the canopy and stepped out of the cart. He opened an umbrella and approached Lana, who was still stooped to the wet cement. Finally, he stood over her with the umbrella shielding her face from further exposure to the rain.

Lana looked up into his face and her mouth fell open in awe of his attractive features. The headlights of the golf cart caught honey blond highlights from his hair which stood short but spiked carelessly. His eyes were wide and slightly dark, shaded from the glare of the headlights of the golf cart behind him so she couldn't quite make out their color. They blinked at her with a curiosity and a touch of shyness. His lips curled into the widest smile, illuminating in the darkness and captivating so much that Lana gasped with reverence.  He wore jeans and a black polo shirt that hugged the contours of his swimmer's build, which he bent down to assist her with her belongings.

"Let me help you," He said, gathering her brush, her wallet, and the rest of the contents from her purse. Lana held her purse open as he placed her belongings gently into her bag. "Are you all right? Did he hurt you, or steal anything?" Lana, still caught up in admiring him, could hardly breathe. She shook her head. "Good, I'm glad. Here, grab on to my hand and I'll help you up." Lana quickly acquiesced to his words but said nothing. Instead, she studied his face as he pulled her up from the ground and turned toward the golf cart. His eyes radiated with the color of the sky at noon on a sunny day. Lana smiled at them and marveled at how they contrasted the shade of her own eyes, the color of the evening sky.

"You're really brave, to smile after such a frightening ordeal," He laughed at her. "Come on, let's get out of this rain." He held the umbrella over her as they walked to the golf cart. He held canopy open for her so she could slip into the passenger side of the cart's front seat. Finally, he sat down in the driver's seat. "So, where to?"

Lana was forced to speak this time. "Osprey Cove," She said clearly, relieved that her voice managed to escape squeaking. She braced the seat as he put the cart into gear and drove.

"I drive a little slower on rainy nights. The pathways get pretty slick," He explained. "My name's Jake, by the way. Jake Herrington. I work with the campus safe ride team. Why didn't you call us to get escorted back to the dorms?"

"My b-, uh, escort, left me at the last minute. I really couldn't," Lana fibbed. "Thanks for driving me back though. And thank you so much for saving me back there."

"It's my pleasure," Jake replied. "Just happy to be in the right place at the right time. I thought it was pretty sly of you, picking up your makeup and stuff before your wallet. You heard me coming, didn't you?"

"Yeah, the guy started to panic. It was the one time I actually left the pepper spray at home. Believe me, that's not going to happen again." Lana vowed firmly.

"It better not! Don't get me wrong, saving damsels in distress is part of the job. But having to deal with scum like that guy is something I'd rather avoid." Jake pulled up to the front door of Osprey Cove and turned off the engine.

"Let's say that I do call," Lana turned to him. "Can I request specific drivers?"

Jake grinned. "Well, that's only for our preferred customers. I can put your name on the list, if you'd like." He winked at her. "May I?"

Lana laughed at him. "Sure. Please do. It's Lana Whitmire."

Jake whipped out a clipboard and pen from behind his seat. "Lana Whitmire," he repeated, writing the name down. Lana looked at the paper on which he was writing. Above his scrawling of her name were worked-out trigonometry problems. Lana laughed at him. Jake pretended not to notice. "Lana Whitmire. And your phone number?"

Lana's eyes grew wide and she blushed immensely. "555-8090," She couldn't believe the night she was having. Dumped by her boyfriend, nearly mugged by a would-be attacker, and now being hit on by the best looking guy she had ever seen.

Jake finished writing down her number and put the clipboard away. "Let me help you out," He quickly exited the driver's seat and appeared on her side, holding up the canopy with one hand and holding her hand as he helped her from the cart. "Well, it was a pleasure saving you tonight, Lana Whitmire."

"Thank you, Jake Herrington. I really appreciate your saving me tonight." They both looked at each other with mock looks of the utmost sincerity before bursting into laughter.

Part Three

Oblivious to the rest of the world, Jake drifted through the darkness of a comatose state for what felt like eternity until the familiar shores of the Bay faded into view.

Jake perceived a darkening sky and imminent sunset. The citrus colored sun cast its reach over the turquoise waves of the Bay, holding on for dear life as time pulled it beneath the horizon. Jake could feel its effort, warm against his tanned chest revealing from his unbuttoned white shirt. His khaki pants were rolled halfway up his calves, soaked from the water that tagged his legs and retreated quickly. In one hand, he carried a pair of worn flip-flops and in the other hand, a torn piece of paper. He opened his hand to read the paper scrap. There were faint sky blue lines across a white background and scribbled in smeared black ink was "555-8090". Bewildered by the peculiar numbers, he slipped the paper into his pocket.

The waves continued to crash and Jake thought he heard a faint sound. It was quiet at first, but it grew louder, in a slow and constant beat. It echoed behind his head and he turned around. To his amazement, he saw Kendra walking barefoot toward him. She wore the sexiest two piece bathing suit, blazing red, with a sheer black sarong wrapped around her dainty hips. Her gorgeous blond hair was swirled into a bun pinned on top of her head and her icy blue eyes only stared at his. They wore the look of intense rapacity.

"Jake, you're always here. Why are you always here?" With her slender fingers, she pulled three bobby pins that held her hair in place. Upon its release, her hair shimmered as it gracefully floated down from the crown of her head.

Mesmerized by her grace, Jake searched for the most eloquent words. "Kendra, I've always been here for you, and will be here for you. Now and forever. It's been you for so long, I've desired no other."

"It's always me," She smiled radiantly. "Me, me, me. Ahhhh, me. But what about you?" As she spoke, the beeps continued, rhythmically keeping time with her responses.

Jake looked around him for the source of the beeps and figured they were in his mind. "I've lost myself to you," He admitted. "This is how I imagined love would be. Complete surrender to your every grace. I put myself in harm's way for you, without a second thought. Gladly, I would do it a thousand times over, even if it meant I'd hear you say the words only once. But you could hear me shout it with my every breath, I love you, I love you." His eyes fell upon her glossy, full pink lips. He pulled her close to him and bent his face toward hers. She smelled of the salt air and of pineapple suntan oil. He parted his lips and closed his eyes as he leaned forward.

Kendra wriggled out of his grasp. "You don't know what you're talking about," She said airily, whipping her long blond hair over shoulder.  "You only think we're connected in some intricate demeanor. But do you have what it takes to love me? How do you know that you have it all?"

"I've felt this connection with you, this romantic connection, that I've never known about before," Jake held her hands in his. "I've wanted to be a better man because of you. You've helped me out when I never expected you to do so. You test my limits and challenge me beyond my comfort zone. I know the real you, the woman who is determined to make her mark in this world. The woman who inspires poetry with every step she takes. The woman who truly understands life as I do, as controlled by the choices we make, not some predetermined destiny. I know you're my true love, Kendra."

"Jake, do you even know of true love? How its pleasure can never be felt without its pain? How deep and excruciating it can be? How it can be found in the most unlikely of places, where you'd never thought of finding it before? How its relentless and unconditional, unwavering and boundless, selfless and unbelievable? And about all else, how it is fulfilled mutually?" Kendra's inquiries sounded in time with the beeping noise. "You need to understand the power of love and its definition before attempting its application. I must go. It's time to go bye-bye." Kendra turned to walk away, but before Jake could stop her, she was mysteriously already ahead of him by fifty yards.

"Kendra! Don't go! Please! I don't want you to go," Jake started to run down the beach. But as he gained speed, he gained no ground on Kendra, who walked further away. He felt so out of breath and stopped running. Before, he had jogged further in less time and never felt as exhausted. He knelt down to the ground, clenching handfuls of sand. Kendra vanished completely from his sight. The beeps grew shrill and numbed his heart. "What's the point of running? You are too far away...were you ever really here?" he whispered. The beeps roared louder in his ears.

The beeps slowed down to a long standstill. The drone of a steady line on the heart monitor set off alarms in the nurse's station of the emergency room.

To Be Continued...

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