The condo sat on the outer edge of East New York City. Its red brick exterior was rather clean, as if it had been powerwashed recently. The front steps were debris free except for a few day's worth of newspapers that had piled up. This was it. If she was still alive this is definitely where she would be found. He climbed the steps up to the heavily barred door and pressed the call button with his thumb.
There came a buzzing sound that was followed by some rustling and scratching through the receiver.
"The door's open. Fifth floor," came a soft voice from the speaker followed by another buzz that signaled that the door was unlocked. He grasped the handle firmly and let himself inside. The interior was clean, but plain. Unremarkable wall tiles and a single table were the only decorations here. To the left there was an elevator which took him to the floor in question. As he rode the short trip it occurred to him that the voice never gave the room number. And when he stepped off he realized that those instructions were not necessary.
The door number was 521 and it was surrounded by pink Christmas lights with a pink heart-shaped welcome mat. Of course, he thought remembering her, She always liked hearts. Happy Jpop music could be heard coming from the door and possibly the smell of cookies, he couldn't tell. John reached out and knocked loudly. "Just a minute!" a husky femme voice called out and footsteps could be heard. The door opened to reveal a young woman, somewhat tall and dark skinned wearing what could only be described as short pink clothing. She had bandages around her neck and upper thighs that appeared to be fresh, as if they changed recently.
She tapped her pink acrylic nails against the door impatiently, "Are you going to come in or not?" she inquired, placing a hand on her hip.
"Sorry," he gruffed as he hurried inside and she shut the door behind him. John wasn't usually taken back by appearances, but this seemed to be a special case. After all, he hadn't seen Amara in over 10 years.
"Don't forget to take your shoes off at the door," Amara reminded him, as she sauntered out of view, pink hair bouncing behind her. He could hear some things being moved around in what might have been the kitchen. A wafting smell of fresh baked cookies reached his senses and gave him a sense of comfort. He remembered that Amara loved baking cookies all those years ago, good to see that those habits held up over time.
The condo was clean and well furnished, well lit, and tasted like diabetes. Heart-shaped decor was everywhere. Cute anime figurines were displayed in a glass case on the wall next to a giant lava lamp with red lava. The floor was white tiled and spotless. It almost seemed girlish and immature to the untrained eye, but John could tell the various weapons that had been expertly hidden around the living room, including a fully-functional blinged out pink M-16 and a stack of magazines right next to the sofa. They were mostly for show, mostly.
"I wasn't expecting to see you after all these years," Amara came back into view with a plate of decorated sugar cookies, "Come on, we have a lot to talk about, don't we?" She lead him with a bit of pep to her step to what seemed to be her bedroom. One of the walls in her room was an entire window with red curtains, that was the first thing he noticed. Amara seemed very fond of sweet decor: her large canopy bed was tucked away in a corner with draping pink and white curtains, plush carpet was just about everywhere except for a large patch in front of the glass wall. All of the walls were painted an agreeable shade of pink and decorated with various specially chosen Renaissance paintings. Copies, but very good copies, he noted that she had The Three Graces but not Birth of Venus.
"Ahem!" Amara brought his attention back to the present. She had already seated herself at a square tea table that was prepared for two. She gestured to what could only be his seat and he sat himself down, hiking up his suit-pants a bit in the process. The softness of the chair made him a bit uncomfortable. The small yet ornate spread of miniature sandwiches and tea cakes weren't appealing to him at the moment but he didn't want to be rude and helped himself to a few.
"The tea is just hibiscus for now. I haven't gone shopping in a while," Amara explained while pouring herself a cup from a teapot covered in hearts. She placed the pot down with a deep breath and a sigh. "So what brings you here? You're not fond of visiting." She fixed him a glare, dropping the pleasantries and cocking her head to the side. He noted her visible temple was shaved and dyed a pale pink.
"I need Sanctuary," he finally responded after a heavy pause, "A...lot of things have happened--"
"I know," she snapped, setting her teacup gently on the heart-shaped saucer in front of her, "You don't think I know? Word travels, John!" And just as delicately as she placed the cup down, she picked up a teacake and bit into it. "And why me?"
"You know why, Mara--" he began.
"Don't tell me your exploits turned everyone against you," she nearly scoffed but softened her tone. Her eyes softened a bit and she looked down at her cup of tea. He knew why she was angry with him and wouldn't blame her. He just hoped she wouldn't turn him down just this once.
Cling Cling o tete tsunai deru
kimi to atashi no runrunrun
This song was one of her favorites, he remembered. There was a lot of history in the fourteen years he had known her and four years he had mentored her. She was always fond of peppy Jpop music. Back then he couldn't stand the stuff but now it brought back good memories. Seeing she was safe and living well gave him a sense of happiness. They were kind of happy back then, weren't they? He thought back to when he met Helen, that was happiness. Whatever it was he wanted to call his past with Amara...it wasn't...
He lifted the cup off the saucer and suddenly realized the tea had been poured in the shape of a heart. Symbols where everywhere. The sound of a clinking spoon made his eyes dart back to the woman in front of him. Amara was stirring milk and sugar into her tea before taking a sip. "So...how long you staying for?" she asked smoothly, completely ignoring the outburst of earlier.
"About a month," came his curt reply.
"A month?" she raised her eyebrows in surprise, "That's not what I expected." Amara pursed her lips together in a mock shocked expression.
"Shorter?" he offered.
"It's not a problem," she held up a hand, "I did say we had some talking to do, so...let's talk." She placed the cup down and put her elbows on the table, clasping her hands together under her chin.
"Okay, we can talk," he agreed.