Just beyond ordinary


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Chapter 1: The lost traveler

The past few years I had been like a bird, completely free, with no worries, no responsibilities, my only concerns were where I was going to sleep that night and how I was going to fill my belly.

I had no money, no job, no connection to the outside would, just the view that was right in front of me, it was so freeing, so liberating, the best decision of my life, I just left everyone, I got up one day and left everything behind me.

I had been everywhere, everywhere, just me and my backpack Chloe.

Completely by my own means, with no help from anyone, we didn't need anyone else...Oh how things were so simple then, and It was amazing, the world, it was truly amazing.

But I was back, back to normality, I had been dreading it, putting it off, I had no desire to be normal again, just another ordinary person living a boring ordinary life, but maybe that was what I needed, I had tricked myself into it.

It was time to stop living in the clouds, it was time to return, but I had been a ghost for so long I had forgotten what home was, I had forgotten where home was.

I started at the place where everyone begins, the place where my life had started the first time round, with my parents.

I don't know why I expected so much from them, maybe because I myself had overcome my expectations, at first no one thought I could do it, they all thought it was just as faze and that I would return home after a while, that I wouldn't be able to care for myself and I would need them, at one point I to doubted it, but I proved them wrong, I proved myself wrong.

I hadn't seen them or really even heard from them for two whole years, I was afraid they wouldn't recognize me, I had changed so much, I was a completely different person and I guess I just naturally expected that to be the case for them to but they were exactly the same, everything was exactly the same as it was when I had left, It was like I never left at all.

I remember my first day back so clearly even now, I remember the very moment i walked up our drive, unlocked the door and entered the very house I had ran from, oddly, it still felt like home.

My parents were the most British people in the country, they were so unbelievably uncultured, that's probably what interested me so much about the world is it was one thing I knew absolutely nothing about.

The most exotic things we had in our house were the objects labeled 'made in china', we would only eat food that was grown in England, strictly British recipes, roast dinner on a Sunday without fail, Shepard pie, baked beans on toast and tea, they would drink plenty of tea.

My mother was a housewife, she spent her life at home or when she did go out she would go to book clubs, coffee dates with her friends or walks out to the park with our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Toby, to feed the ducks, that seemed to be one of her favorite hobbies, I would often fantasize about that, once I convinced myself that it was just a cover, I hoped, oh god I hoped that maybe, just maybe she was actually a superhero or a bank robber or having an affair...or anything really, anything that made her just that little bit more interesting. I remember following her one day, following her to the park and then being severely let down when it really was just that boring.

Then my father, he would spent his weekends down the pub, his evenings in front of the TV and his days working at the bank as an accountant, they rarely ever strayed from those activities.


After some hugs and kisses from my completely delighted, overly excited and pleased parents everything very quickly returned normal, I sat down on the same armchair, in the same living room, in the same house as before, not even one thing surrounding me was new, it was all in it's exact place.

I spent a few hours talking about all the grand adventures I had experienced along my travels, I had so many wonderful stories I could have told but in that moment they all slide down to the back of my head, all safely stored up in the completed file in my brain, too deep down for me to be able to reach down and pull them to my tongue and just like that I was sat there left listening to my father reading out a boring article he had stumbled across earlier that day, just like I had been there the whole time.

For a while I put up with it, I let myself get wrapped up in my old life, it had consumed me and it was so easy to let it strip out all new I had built up and give in.

In just those few days I had been back I must have caught up with everyone I knew in that life, I had been so shut off from all the experiences and all the wonder back then, I had always known that, that's why I needed to get out in the first place but until then I had no idea just how much I had been missing out on all that time.


As I sat back and watched the life that was once mine play out in front of me, fully conscious within the exterior, I realized I no longer belong there, I no longer belonged anywhere. I needed to find a new place for myself, a new life that had yet to be tainted, but I didn't know how, I had tried before but it clearly didn't work, I hadn't found myself, I hadn't found a meaning in life, I had just been putting it off.


That night I found myself wondering, no clue of where to begin, I just simply let my feet decide, maybe on the way to nowhere, something or someone would pull me aside and grant me with all that I desired, all that I longed for. I looked forward to finding out how my life would come upon me and show it's face but in that moment I had no idea how quickly it would appear to me and take action.


My legs were beginning to tire and my eyes where beginning to close when I found a place that felt more like home to me then than where I had spent most of my life.

A homeless shelter, I had spent many a night in one as a traveler, as a ghost, they were never my first option of course but they had quickly become a sort of savior to me in some previous occasions, when I had no luck salvaging up some money from where ever or whoever I could.

That time was different, it had never been a choice before, it had never been anything but a obligation, before I had arrived there I wouldn't have expected for a place like that, a place of desperation to once again claim me.

I walked in with a strange feeling of nostalgia, as i crawled up in an empty corner and rest my sore legs I was numb, I felt nothing, just as I lay my head against the wall, gently entering the land of peaceful tranquility I heard the most unexpected sound, a loud vibration filled the room.

I forced open my unwilling eyes and peered right across the room through the dimly lit light, there was a group of men all huddled up in the opposite corner to me.

I peaked through a small gap and to my surprise I saw a young looking man holding some electric hair clippers to another long bearded mans face, he was trimming his beard, I had never seen anything like that before, not in a shelter anyway.

I could no longer feel the strain in my eyes and all of a sudden my brain was alight, I sat and watched the show for a while, watching the crowd of men grow thinner and thinner as they walked away with shortened hair, a shape to their chins and grins on their faces.

After everyone had had a turn, I was able to see the man behind it.

He was very tall and thin, with a long scruffy beard and short straight coconut colored hair, parted on the side and a long fringe covering one of his eyes, they were already hidden behind his horn rim glasses, but he wasn't homeless as far as I could tell, his clothes looked new and clean, fancy even, they weren't at all like everyone else in the rooms.

Despite the fact only a small majority of his face was actually visible I could tell that he was relatively young, in his early to late twenties maybe, not much older than me at the time, his face and mannerisms seemed kind and friendly, just in those seconds of seeing him I was already entirely intrigued by him.

I watched for a bit longer as he packed up all of his equipment, before I decided to move in closer and introduce myself.

He was wearing a well fitted navy, wool suit with a white shirt underneath with a tight white knitted jumper and black lace up shoes on his feet.

It wasn't even especially cold that night, all I was wearing was just a light knitted beige cardigan over a thin white summer dress, even just in that I was almost too warm.


As I slowly approached him, he looked up to me, he brushed back his fridge almost like a quiff so I could see his eyes, one was a pale blue and the brown, so beautiful, I could never forgot those eyes, they was the light shone from them.

He didn't say anything, not a word, he just glanced at me before he lit up his cigarette.

“How come you cut everyone elses hair and beards but not your own?” I randomly asked him as I stared.

“I like my beard...why? don't you?” he mumbled.

I tentatively shook my head.

He just smirked, admiring my honesty as he looked at me for a second before he crouched down to his briefcase and pulled the clippers back out.

“Clip it off then...” he said blankly as he handed them to me.

“What? Really?” I smiled not at all sure if he was joking or not, he seemed perfectly serious but there was no way for me to know for sure, I had only just met the guy.

He dropped his cigarette on the ground, stomped it and sat down in his fold up chair.

“Yeah, go on” he sniffled.

I stood there for a moment, trying to wrap my head around it before I just decided to go for it, I knelt down in front of his, holding his face in my hand before tentatively moving in with the buzzing clippers, leaving him enough time to cry out just encase.

“So, err, what's your name?” I asked after I realized he wasn't about to say anything at all, he just sat there still, in the chair in silence.

“Does it matter?” the stranger barked.

I froze for a second, not at all expecting it.

“Well...no, not really, no” I smirked as I thought to myself.

I couldn't figure out how I had arrived at that point, I had met the man just minutes ago and now I was shaving his face in the middle of the night in a homeless shelter, I had to admit, I had never done anything like that before, yet some how I was completely fine with it.

“Do, do you want to know my name?” I muttered blankly through the silence.

“Not particularly no...” he told me honestly.

I appreciated his honesty, something I could already tell he didn't lack in at all, nothing he had said particularly made me feel as if he was being rude.

“Alright then” I laughed before I finished off his face.


I stood back to take a look at my work, he was now left with just some short stubble and it turned out that under all that hair, the stranger was actually very handsome, he had such a pretty face, his very visible features now on show, his sharp jaw line and well sculpted face somehow his bone structure reminded me of an Egyptian prince.

“You're done” I grinned as I brushed off a few stay hairs from his chin.

What most surprised me was that for some reason the odd situation wasn't at all awkward or uncomfortable, as I would have thought it to be, I was very comfortable around him already, I usually adapted to new things and new people quickly but it was different that time, it was strange, with the very few words I had spoken to him I already felt as if I had known him for a while and like he knew me.

“Thank you” he mumbled as smiled appreciatively at me and stood up to his feet.

He bent down and quickly swept up the hair into a neat pile, then he tipped it into a large black sack, he then sat back down and pulled his mirror out of his case.

“Is this better? With you sleep with me now?” he asked casually as he examined my work.

“What?” I laughed awkwardly.

“Well you said you didn't like the beard and now, now I don't have one, so, how about now?”

“Wait, did you get rid of it for me? Just, purely for that reason?” my eyes narrowed.

I couldn't quite believe it.

“Well yeah? Do you think it's strange to do something nice for a stranger?”

I wasn't at all sure what to say, I just stared at him blankly.

“I can tell you prefer me now, no point in denying it, the way you're looking at me, I can tell” he smiled smugly as he looked deeply into my eyes.

I couldn't stop looking at him, it was like he had hypnotized me, I hated him what what he had said, the arrogance and all together narcissism but still, annoyingly, I felt very drawn to him, he fascinated me, I had never met anyone quite like him before.

“You, you do better” I smirked.

I found myself feeling very shy and fragile, I wasn't usually like that, I was confident and strong but with him my heart just seemed to flutter, so loud that I couldn't concentrate on anything but him, he had taken me hostage with just one smile and I hated it, I hated feeling so helpless against that jerk, I hated what he could do to me, but at the same time it was exciting, having no control over what would happen next, it was new to me.

All of a sudden his hands were all over me, his fingers exploring my skin, his lips inches away from mine.

“Come with me” he whispered with a seductive grin.

“Where?” I whispered pulling myself back resisting.

“Some place dry and clean, come on, you don't belong here”

For a second I really thought about, I wanted to but thankfully my better judgment prevailed and I regained control, my mind was clear again.

“You know what? no, I don't want to” I told him with a smirk.

“Seriously?” he cried, unable to believe me, offended by my rejection.

“I just met you, I- I don't even know your name, I think you've got me all wrong” I told him, slowly moving away.

“Really? That's all it takes? Why didn't you say so...” he laughed. “Merlin, my names Merlin” he told him holding his hand out to me, seeming to think that was the answer for it all, that that somehow changed everything.

“I'm Marlowe” I told him reluctantly as I shook it.

“Come with me Marlowe” he whispered with a charming smile.

“Please, I said no, just leave it okay?” I smirked as turned around.

“What is wrong with you Marlowe?” Merlin cries with his arms out and his face puzzled.

“Nothing is wrong with me, but maybe you should ask yourself the same question, could prove to be interesting” I muttered as I walked across the room away from him.

“You know what? I'm not going to give up Marlowe” he told me after he had caught up, running by my side.

“You're not used to not getting your own way, are you?” I growled, glaring at him.

“Not even a little bit” he laughed as he watched me sit down on a spare bed in the corner. “I'll be back Marlowe, I'll keep coming back for as long as it takes” he told me confidently.

“And...then you'll get a restraining order, that will be fun won't it?” I laughed, looking up to hi from the low bed.

“Believe me, you won't want to, soon enough you'll be begging for me” he smirked.

“I severely doubt that” I laughed, shaking my head. “...Please tell me you're not staying here?” I asked as the idea of him sleeping near me entered my head, an image I really wasn't comfortable with.

He didn't scare me at all, it wasn't that I didn't trust him, sure he was persistent and had the biggest ego out of everyone I knew put together, completely full of himself but he really didn't strike me as bad person, slightly delusional and very spoiled but harmless.

“Of course not” he laughed, seeming to find even the notion hilarious.

“So, why are you here? You definitely don't seem like the type of person to do something out of the goodness of your heart, what's your motive? What do you get from this Merlin? Or, is it some sort of government given obligation?” I asked, genuinely curious.

“Cutting hair, menial tasks, they help me think, they clear my mind” he told me blankly in full honestly. As he told me something small changed in him, it was subtle but I noticed, although I wasn't sure what that meant yet.

“What about you? Why are you here? You're not homeless” he asked after a moment, looking down at me with a smirk.

“How do you know? I might be” my eyes narrow. “I could be homeless...” I tell him.

“Yeah, you're not, so, why are you here?” he laughed.

“Technically I'm not, no, I just, I got back last week after being away for a while and just needed to be somewhere different, I couldn't stay in there for any longer, ...is that a good of a enough answer Merlin? ...I have no idea why I'm even telling you this” I tried not to get upset with myself, I really hated what I had done, how all the new things and places I had been and experienced that I thought were improving me, fulfilling me, had ruined me, I was no longer able to stay still and I hated it, I could feel the how I felt in the house again, the tightening of my organs and the disorientation.

“So this is your somewhere different?” he asked, genuinely interested in what I had told him. “...You know, have you ever stopped to think that maybe it's not the place that's affecting you? It's not the place that needs to change, It could be the people, when you get used to seeing the same people all the time, you're bound to get bored and want something new, maybe that's what you need in your life, a different person?” he smiled at me sweetly and took hold of my hand, actually seeming to care about me all of a sudden, talking to me as if I was an actually human being and not just some sort of game I could win.

As soon as he touched me I could feel the air return to my lungs, I don't know what it was but he made a lot of sense, leaving me with a lot to think about.

I had been to so many places that eventually they did all just look the same in the end but it was all the interesting, exotic people that I talked to that all my memories seemed to involve. I liked how they all just came and went, how after the fun was done I could move on and meet someone new and it would all start over again, although I hadn't been back for long I knew my parents,every little detail, there was no discovery left and thats what I hated most.

“Maybe I could be your something new, maybe my bedroom could give you the change of scenery you need...” he said, back to his old self with a smile, looking quite proud of himself, I was actually quite glad he did, I was already starting to forget and I couldn't let him get to me like that, maybe it meant that there was a good part of him in there but I didn't really want to bite through the crispy shell to find out. I quickly pulled my hand away from him and moved back.

“...What about you? What do you need? You said this place helps you think, think about what? And don't just say to meet me” I asked curiously, although he was a complete jerk, I couldn't help but want to understand him, his reasons, I believed there was something behind all of his facade.

“But I am here to meet you Marlowe” he smirked. “I need you” he then said almost convincingly.

I just glared at him, smart enough not to fall for it.

“Come on, I told you about me, it's your turn” I tried again.

“okay, i didn't come here for you, I didn't know you were going to be here but I mean it, I do need you” I told me blankly, no little smirks, he was being serious.

“What do you need me for?” I laughed, trying to lighten the conversation.

“I need you to help me with something” he added, not really explaining much.

“What could you possibly need me for? What do you need me help you with?” my eyes narrowed as I watched him closely.

“I can't tell you that” he muttered.

I stared at him for a second, trying to figure him out, after a moment I gave up with a little smirk.

“You can't tell me?”

“No, you would never believe me if I did, you need to see it for yourself, you need to come with me Marlowe” he vaguely explained.

I was on the edge, I wasn't sure if I should believe me or not, he was either telling the truth or was a great actor, I couldn't tell as hard as I tried, there was no doubt in his voice, not flicker in his eyes or twitch on his face to help me.

“And how exactly is whatever this is going to help me?” I muttered.

“...By giving you a purpose” he mumbled with a smug smile.

I had to admit, the whole thing intrigued me, I needed to know what it was, what he was talking about, what he wanted me to see but I still wasn't completely convinced.

He watched me closely I thought seriously about his offer, almost as if he knew I couldn't resist, the same sort of look he had before, maybe he was right, maybe he did always get his way in the end.

“I'll tell you what, I'll let you think more about it, I don't want you to be coming into this unsure” he said after a moment as he stood up from the bed.

“I'm sure, I could handle just hours apart from you if I really try” he cried proudly.

“Are, are you giving up Merlin?” I teased him.

“...Never” he said as he cleared his throat,trying hard to hide his a sweet smile from meas he buttoned up his jacket.

That was the most apparent, most genuine, human reaction I had seen from him the whole time we had been talking, continuing my theory of his heart.

“Goodnight Marlowe” he whispered almost sweetly turning back to me.

“Bye” I muttered.

“See you tomorrow love” he smiled as he finally walked away.

“Yeah, you can try and find me” I cried out as I watched him leave, keeping up my unimpressed act, not wanting to help inflate his already ocean sized ego.

I wasn't really impressed per say just incredibly intrigued although I wouldn't have wanted him to know, I wanted to see him again and not even really just to get some answers, as much as it scared me, apart of me wanted to get to know him.

He had left me feeling so alive, I was regaining my sense of adventure, the mystery, the unknown gave me something to think about, something to look forward to which was what I really needed at that time, a way out.


I stayed up for a bit longer as I thought about everything he had said, trying to come up with some potential answers, trying to imagine how it would all play out. I wasn't quite sure how it would all work out, if I ever wanted to find out what he was talking about I would eventually have to go to his house, a place that I once, not so long ago desperately wanted to stay away from. One thing I was certain of though was that Merlin was coming back and I would in fact find me, I had a feeling that even if I crossed the ocean, flew to the other side of the world he would always still find me, under all of the creepiness, it was strangely flattering, all I could think was, why me?


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Chapter 2: A different kind of adventure

That morning I woke up to something slightly unnerving, something even with all my travels I had yet to experience, an old man, who must have been at least seventy, judging by his long white hair and wrinkly face was sitting right in front me. The very first thing I saw was him sitting curled up with knees to his chest, staring at me as I opened my eyes for the first time that day.
“Good morning” he grinned, exposing the many gapes in his teeth.
“Good morning” I mumbled as I pulled myself quickly up.
“Did you sleep well?” he asked casually.
“Yes thanks, you?” I smiled sweetly, trying not to offend him, the staring with creepy but technically he had done nothing wrong and he was being polite enough.
“Very well thank you” he told me.
I just watched him for a moment in silence, hoping he would leave.
“I saw you here last night” he whispered after a minute, looking around suspiciously.
“Did you...? sorry what's your name?” I muttered, still with a fake smile.
“Dudley” he smirked. “...And yes, I did, you were talking to that strange man” he added.
“Strange?” my eyes narrowed, now interested in what he had to say. “Strange how?” I asked.
“I wouldn't trust him if I were you, you were right not to leave with him” the stranger told me seriously, looking genuinely worried.
“Wh- why?” I stuttered, allowing myself to get pulled into his words.
The man then gestured me closer, with one more look around the room, being extra secretive he opened his mouth.
“He's a serial killer” he whispered with wide eyes.
All of a sudden I was swept with a wave of relief, I couldn't take anything he said seriously anymore, I was clearly crazy.
“A- a serial killer?” I asked, trying my best to keep a straight face.
“Yeah, I mean like some Hannibal Lecter, Dexter shit, he's in to some real messed up stuff” he told me confidently, nodding his head.
“How do you know?” I whispered, playing along with him.
“I've seen it with my own eyes, it was just a clear as you are in front of me right now” the man explained.
“Really? What, what did he do exactly?” I continued.
“Well, he didn't do anything exactly put I have seen things in his bag, some disturbing shit” he muttered.
“What was in his bag?” my smile faded slightly, although I didn't believe him, he was crazy and talking completely nonsense, it definitely reminded me of how little I knew about the guy, anything was possible and I had to be wary of that. 
“I- I saw, body parts...” Dudley told me.
“Body parts?” my eyes widened.
“Yes, body parts, a hand in his bag” he whispers before getting up. “Do yourself a favor and stay away from him alright?” he muttered before walking away.
I watched him blankly as I went over the last few minutes in my head. I sat like that for a moment before shaking it off, smirking quietly to myself, maybe the best thing to do was just forget about Merlin, forget that we had ever even met, no matter how badly I would have liked to find out what he was talking about, if there even was something, I wanted to live more, I wasn't going to risk my life.

I didn't stay at the shelter for much longer, if I was going to stay I needed a job, a way to make money so I could buy a place of my own. I had no clean clothes or even a tooth or hair brush, so I had choice but to go back home first, I couldn't turn up to the job centered looking like I did, my hair all over the place and a crinkled clothes.
It didn't take long to get home, it must have been about ten o'clock by then, I wasn't at all planning on staying long, I wouldn't have been there at all If I didn't have to be, if I had a choice.
As I walked through the door I remembering hearing something that surprised me, voices coming from the living room, with just my parents it would have just been occasional mumbles over the TV, not that the TV was off and the voices were consistent, a proper conversation.
I stood there for a minute listening some more, trying to figure out who it was, most likely a friend of my parents who I wouldn't at all have been interested in seeing. 
I was sure someone was in there but all I could really hear was my mum.
Instead of risking getting caught and pulled in as I peaked around the corner, I turned back to the door I hadn't closed yet, looking outside for a car to help me figure who it was. Somehow on my way in, I had failed to see a second car in the drive way and it wasn't at all the sort of car that blended in, I didn't know much about cars so I couldn't say what it was, but one thing I could definitely say was, it looked expensive, a black shiny, posh looking sports car that must have been brand new as far as I could tell, which perked my interest, I couldn't not go in now, I was too curious, I had to see who it was.
I quietly closed the front door and walked half way down the magnolia hallway, everything in that house was either cream, magnolia or brown, and over to the first door on the left, where the voices were coming from.
I stood right outside the slightly cracked door for a moment, trying one last time to figure it out without anyone noticing but as I listened through the crack someone ruined it, my mum pulled the door open.
“Oh, Marlowe there you are dear” she cried with wide eyes and a grin.
I faked a smile but on the inside all I could feel was dread.
“We've been waiting for you” she told me, moving to the side to reveal the mystery.
Sitting there, much to my surprise was Merlin, causally on the beige sofa next to my dad with Toby on his lap. I had no idea why the thought hadn't crossed my mind, he didn't have my address, or even my fall name but It was naive of me not to suspect something like this of his, I really shouldn't have been surprised.
He was dressed differently than before, his hair was all perfectly sleeked back and neat, he clearly had his own style, quite vintage and yet still modern. 
That days choice was some dark brown trousers and long brown matching jacket with a double buttoned beige waistcoat underneath, all the buttons perfectly polished, again well fitted, with a white shirt and black matte tie, a matching handkerchief in his pocket and even cuff links and a pocket watch, it was ridiculous and on his feet, some dusty brown lace up boots that matched his finger less gloves.
“Hey babe, you took your time didn't you?” Merlin smirked as he jumped up off the sofa and came up to me, wrapping his arms around my waist and giving me a little kiss on the cheek.
I just stood there frozen, unsure of what to do, the only thing swimming around in my head was what the man had told me that morning.
“What are you doing here?” I whispered angrily in his ear after a moment. 
“He's really great, me and your dad love him already, you've found a gem” Mum smiled as she perked on the arm of the chair in front of me, keeping her starry eyes glued to him.
Dad didn't seem at all bothered, he just sat watching the blank TV with a little groan to acknowledge her, he was sick off work which didn't help his mood.
“Sorry I was late” I said, even surprising myself, playing along with whatever Merlin was doing, not quite sure what else to do.
“It's okay, Merlin explained everything” she smiled sweetly.
“Did he?” I cried, glancing at him and we both took a seat on the spare sofa.
“Why didn't you tell us Mar?” mum asked with narrow eyes.
I had no idea what she was talking about, what he had told her, all I could do was stare at her blankly, it didn't help that all I concentrate on was Merlin's brown leather satchel on the floor, trying to peak inside the small gap were the top folded over, testing Dudley's theory.
Merlin noticed what I was doing and very calmly reacted, gently kicking the bag further away, giving me a funny look.
“You just didn't want them to worry did you love?” he cried, wrapping his arm around me, quite tight, like he was holding me back but also stoking my arm, as if he was comforting me, maybe it was just for show.
“No, I didn't want you to worry” I went along with it.
“Well, it's a good thing you have a lovely boyfriend to take care of you isn't it?” mum grinned as she stood up again, standing in front of us. 
“You guys make such a beautiful couple, you look so good together” she told us with sparkling eyes.
As soon as she said it my eyes narrowed, I leaned forward to look at him and down at myself, what was she talking about? We couldn't have looked any different from each other, I had scruffy bleach blond hair, that hadn't been cut or dyed in months, my dark roots showing and split ends tickling my armpits, my skin was tanned from all of the sun, causing my blue eyes to pop out, helping me to look partly feral and my lips were dry and cracked. All of my baggy clothes had holes in and nothing I owned was in good condition, it was all miss matched and things that I had picked up along the way, I was the definition of a hippy, it was hard to believe I was even related to my parents. He was wearing cuff links and I was wearing half a dozen bangles and tatty brackets on my wrists, I looked as if I had been living in the forest for months and he looked as if he was about to meet the queen.
“I'll just go and pour the tea, won't be a minute alright?” she said after a moment of staring before leaving the room.
“Okay, thanks mum” I cried out to her sweetly as I watched her leave the room, before turning straight to Merlin, I grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the room and up the stairs to my old room.
“Well, you've changed your tune since last night haven't you?” his eyes widened as he looked down at the bed.
“What are you doing here?” I yelled after shutting the door behind me and turning back to him scowling.
“I told you I would see you again Marlowe” he smiled with wide innocent eyes as he explored my room.
“...How did you even know where to find me?” I asked after a second of watching him play around with my stuff
“Your parents are so lovely” he said, avoiding my question.
“Merlin” I cried sternly, finally catching his attention.
“I just do, the same way I know you've been away for years, traveling across the world, the same way I know you're an English teacher, the same way I know that all you want to do is help as much as you can, I know you Marlowe” he told me with a sweet smile.
As he moved closer to me I stepped back, almost walking into the door.
“How?” my voice wobbled as my slight fear found it's way to my face.
“I just do okay?” he stopped, noticing how uncomfortable I was, telling me gently.
“How?” I yelled, much stronger that time.
“I will explain everything if you just come with me Marlowe” he insists yet again.
“No, we're not leaving this room until you tell me” I cried.
He watched me for a second blankly before taking a deep breath.
“Alright” he gave in taking a seat on the bed.
“I researched you, not just you, others too, I'm here because you won Marlowe” he told me.
“Why?” “Won what?” I asked nervously.
“I needed someone to help me, with something important, something so important, like I told you before, I need your help” he explained. “Out of them all, you're perfect for it Marlowe, you have all the qualities to help, I'm sure of it” 
“For what? What I could I possibly help you with that no one else can?” I started to loosen up a bit, stepping away from the door.
“...A job, I want to give you a job” he told me with a hopeful look on his face. “I work for a company, electronics” he added.
“I know nothing about electronics” I laughed.
“You don't have to, that's my job, all I'm asking you to do is come with me, see what I have to show you, if you don't like it, you can leave” “Although of course I would like a lot more from you” he teased.
I watched him carefully, reading his face as best as I could, yet again, he came across so sincere, so genuine.
 “...And...if I do it, if you come with you, do what you say and I don't, I'll never have to see you again? You'll leave me alone?” I asked after a moment, coming around to the idea.
“As much as it hurts and it will break my heart into millions of pieces, yes, I'll leave you alone IF you don't want the job” he exaggerated.
“...You really don't think I'll want to walk away do you?” I smirked.
“...Not even for one minute” he said confidently.
As I watched his cocky face looking at me I couldn't help but let out a little smile.
Before the conversation could continue there was a knock at the door.
“Sorry, I hope I'm not interrupting but the teas ready” mum muttered though the gap of the door she had opened slightly.
“No, don't worry, you're not interrupting anything” I laughed as I opened it.
“I was just showing Merlin my room” I lied.
“Oh, alrighty” mum grinned as we both followed her down the stairs.
“Do you still have to be my boyfriend?” I whispered to Merlin on the way down.
“It's too late to turn back now Marlowe” he told me, giving me a smug smile. “Sorry” he whispered with not an ounce of sympathy.
I just glared at him.
As we reached the bottom I pulled Merlin abruptly aside once again without mum noticing.
“What did you tell her before? Why I was late?” I panicked slightly, thankful that I remembered, in case it was brought up again, I couldn't handle that sort of pressure, lying didn't come as easily to me as it clearly did to him.
“Oh, that you couldn't sleep because of the jet lag, that you came to my house because you knew I'd be awake too” he told me, with a proud smile before happily going ahead back into the living room.
I stood there for just a second longer with the sound of Merlin's voice filling the living room once again, trying not to be too impressed by him, suppressing the smile my face so desperately wanted to express, luckily my brain won.
I sat there for the rest of the time listening to Merlin as he rarely stopped talking, telling my parents all of these extravagant stories, some that I was sure couldn't possibly be true. He told them about how he used to be poor, leaving on the street, kicked out by his strict parents and how he had put himself through school working five different jobs and how he managed to get into a good university, get his degree in electronics and invent a popular app, knowing full well that no one in the room would have the fainest idea about those sorts of things.
After about an hour of listening, a couple of teas and a lot of biscuits I had no choice but to interrupt, I couldn't listen any longer and I had the feeling he had enough to last the whole day.
“Babe?” I cried, tapping his thigh.
He immediately turned to me with wide eyes.
I didn't keep my hand there for any longer than I had to.
“I know you're having fun but we really should go?” I told him, slightly sweetly.
“Really? Already?” he said genuinely sounding upset. “Couldn't we just stay a bit longer? I'm sure Elvis would be fine for a little longer” he added.
My eyes widened again, he was sucking me into another lie.
“I really think we should” I told him blankly, trying to stay as vague as possible, leaving him to the lying.
“Elvis?” mum cried grinning curiously, waiting for one of us to explain.
“Our puppy” Merlin cried excitedly.
“You have a puppy?” my mother grinned, completely ecstatic to hear the made up news.
“Yes, a little Jack Russell, he's only a few months old, we brought him back on the plane didn't we babe?” he told her, glancing at me with a cheeky smile while no one was looking.
I glared at him.
“Did you hear that Toby? You have a new little brother” Mum gasped, looking down to the dog on the floor.
“You two have a dog together?” my dad finally joined in on the conversation, seeming more concerned than excited.
“Yeah” I muttered not even trying to seem pleased.
“Don't say it like that Marlowe, you love Elvis” Merlin cried. “He's like our little baby, kind of like a practice until we get the real thing right?” he told them.
“Wow, that's a big deal, you must be pretty serious then” Dad raised his eyebrows, seeming quite impressed.
“I guess we are” Merlin took my hand and smiled at me, I however did not return one.
“Well you better get back to him then, if he's only a puppy you shouldn't stay away for too long” Mum smiled sweetly as she started getting up from the sofa to see us off.
“Come on then beautiful” Merlin hurried me up and back down the hall as Mum just smiled along, I wasn't the lying that particularly bothered me it was how happy she was with it all, how supportive, nothing she had shown before, she never really did approve of my traveling, she seemed far more comfortable with all the normality, even though when I did leave all that time ago, I made it clear to her that it wasn't something that I wanted, a boring normal life with a dog and a serious boyfriend, I couldn't lie, it hurt.
At the last second I remembered my need for some clean clothes so I rushed back upstairs, grabbing my bag from the bed, that I hadn't unpacked since I got back, the one I had named Chloe, before rushing back down.
“When- when will you get back?” my mum muttered, looking slightly disheartened as she looked at the large bag on my back. The complete opposite to Merlin who looked utterly delighted.
As much as I didn't want to give Merlin the satisfaction, I didn't want her to expect too much either, nothing had changed, I still didn't have a place to stay but there were ore than a few that beat staying with mum and dad.
“I don't know” I told her blankly.
“I, I understand that you would want to spend more time with Merlin but, me and your dad have missed having you here dear” she told me, looking to the floor.
“I know mum” I smiled sympathetically, giving her a quick hug, feeling quite guilty.
Merlin just watched, knowing full well how I felt about staying there.
“It really is only down the road” he told her, helping me. “You don't have to cross an ocean or anything” he laughed to lighten the mood. For once it didn't seem like he was only doing it for himself, he was doing it for my benefit, whether that was only to get on my good side I'm not sure but at the time I appreciated it.
“I know, sorry, I'm being a bit silly” mum smirked, pulling into herself.
“I'll tell you what, If it's okay with you, maybe I can pop round for dinner later?” I gave in to the guilt.
The light in her eyes made it worth it, I never wanted to hurt her, that was never my intention.
“Yeah, yeah, we'd love that, you're more than welcome anytime” she cried partly suppressing her huge grin. “So, the both of you?”
“Oh, no, no” I cried out instantly, shaking my head adamantly.
Merlin glared at me.
“He's got work, haven't you?” I turned to him with a pleased smile and hard stare. “...Babe?” I added for authenticity, trying not to look as disgusted as I felt.
“I was so sure I had the day off, how funny” he said in the most unconvincing way possible.
I just laughed nervous.
“Right, we better get going, E...Elvis will be waiting” I cried after a moment of staring at Merlin, coming cross the messing everything up. “I'll see you later then mum? Bye Dad” I said as quickly as possible before practically running out the door.
“Oh, goodbye dear” mum muttered at the last minute.
I waited by the car for a good minute before Merlin came out, saying goodbye properly to my parents, trying his best to seem completely perfect while I stood rolling my eyes, knowing the truth.
When he eventually closed the door and wandered over to me he had the biggest grin on his face.
“Babe huh?” he teased as he walked past me to the drivers side with his keys swinging around on his finger.
“You know why I said that” I growled as I watched him climb in.
as he watched me through the window I froze.
“Get in then” he laughed.
“I, I don't know if I can” I muttered, all of a sudden full of anxiety. “No, I don't know if I can” I started to panic slightly.
“Just deep breaths okay?” Merlin tried to relax me “Remember what we said Marlowe, you can walk away at any given time if you want, all you have to do it get in the car.
I listened to him, taking deep breath like he had said, mentally preparing myself.
“You're, you're not a serial killer are you?” I asked just as I was around to pull the handle.
Merlin just laughed.
“No, not a serial killer” he muttered.
“Mm, that's exactly what a serial killer would say” I joked, still slightly hesitant on what I was about to do.
“I dress far too way to be a serial killer, with all the blood and mess” he added.
“Debatable” I laughed as I finally opened the door, softly climbing in beside him.
“Hey, what are you doing?” I cried as he started talking off his jacket.
“Relax, I'm just hot” he laughed as he threw it neatly on the seat behind.
“Well, yeah, it is summer and you're wearing like twelve layers” I smirked at him.
“...The end of summer, it's September” Merlin cried defensively as he rolled up his shirt sleeves, revealing something that definitely caught my attention.
Both of his arms were completely covered in tattoos, every single inch of his arms.
Without thinking I reached across and grabbed a hold of one to get a closer look, staring with wide eyes.
His skin had been made into two silver robot, bio-mechanical arms, they looked so real, as if they were actually made of metal, even comparing them to the gold watch he had on his wrist the drawn metal looked just as real.
“It's just on my arms by the way, just saying, you know, before you start ripping off my clothes, not that I would have a problem with that really” Merlin smirked as he watched me.
“That was never going to happen” I glared up at him, managing to pull my eyes away, I could have stared at it for hours, it was so beautifully done, so detailed. “It's amazing Merlin” I told him honestly.
“...If you think that's amazing, what I'm going to show you is going to blow your mind” he smirked sweetly, staring at my with sparkling eyes.
For a minute I couldn't help but be pulled in.
“Okay, come on, let go of me, you can touch me for as long as you want later but right now we have to get home to Elvis” Merlin cried impatient all of a sudden as he waited for me to put my seat belt on, grinning as he put on his round sunglasses and pulled out the drive way.
“Was, was anything you said in there true?” I asked, trying not keep on my mind from wandering.
“Some of it” he told me.
“...Which parts?” my eyes narrowed.
“I have a dog and I live down the road” he said blankly.
“The story about your past? The app?” I asked.
Merlin just laughed as he shook his head.
I didn't know how to respond to that, all I could do was watch him curiously, even then, I couldn't help but let him fascinate me.
“So, do you know what you're going to do in the extremely unlikely circumstance you don't take the job?” he asked me after a while, his eyes flickering to me as he watched the road at the same time.
“Not exactly” I muttered honestly, looking out the window alertly by then.
“What about tonight? Where will you stay?” he added, asking me quite gently, again, seeming like he actually cared, in those moment I could actually stand him, the moments where he wasn't hiding or putting on a hard front, those very rare moments of humanity.
“And if I would tell you” I laughed.
“I just want to know you'll be okay” he told me.
“Why are you even asking if you're so sure I'm going to except your job offer?” my eyes narrowed.
Merlin stayed silent for the very first time it seemed.
“Where- where will I stay if I do? If I do take the offer? I mean, in your head, as you seem to have my life perfectly worked out” I forced myself to ask, I needed to start thinking about things, I hadn't done much of that.
“With me” he said blankly.
“I'm not living with you” I cried stubbornly. “Not in a million years”
“It's part of the job” he told me as he pulled up to a block of apartment in the town, just off the busy high street.
It was all very well kept compared to everything else around, it must have had around six good sized apartments in the whole thing, that must have cost a reasonable amount of money and it was all very clean and white, very well taken care of, completely untouched by the rest of the town, no graffiti, no old paint or rubbish around.
“Well, then I'm definitely not taking it” I laughed.
“Uhuh” he muttered, barely listening, giving up on my persistence as he parked inside a garage and got out of the car.
“We'll see” he smiled before slamming the door.
I quickly rushed out and around the car after him, following him to the few steps at the side and through the white double doors, that lead to a corridor.

The corridor was long and for a corridor, quite wide, keeping the exact theme as the outside with the same slightly clinical, clean look. It was all white bricked walls, with on one side a long thin window running along most of it, letting in a lot of light, and the other with three well spaced out black shiny, glossy front doors and right at the other end, a staircase that lead up to the top level.
“How old are you?” I asked curiously, looking around, taking in my surroundings as we walked along the hall.
“Twenty six, why?” Merlin laughed.
“It's just, you've done quite well for yourself haven't you? With this place, the posh car and the suits” I told him.
Merlin didn't say anything but I could see him smirking to himself.
“I haven't got anything, I mean, I literally have nothing, all that I own is in this bag” I said for the very first time like it was a bad thing, whereas before I was genuinely proud of that, having nothing to hold me back.
“That's not true, you have a lovely family, you have your degree, more than a lot of people” he smiled sweetly as he took his key out of his bag and began to open the door at the very left, at the end of the long hall.
“You have all of that too, and more, I'm only a year younger than you” I told him with a frown.
“None of it is important Marlowe” he muttered as he pushed open the door. “You have everything you need, and now, when you walk through this door, you'll have everything you want as well” he grinned as he stepped aside.
“And what was it that you said I needed?” my eyes narrowed as I hesitantly hovered in the hall, avoiding walking through the doorway.
“A purpose” he smirked as he gave me a gentle push into his apartment.
He closed the door behind me, kind of startling me as I stood there frozen, my heart beating the fastest it ever had, out of everything I had done in my life, throughout my travels, that was by far the scariest.
Merlin walked straight past me, to the other side of the room, leaving me to adjust by myself.

The room was very spacious and mostly empty, there wasn't much furniture at all. The walls were white brick just like the hallway and the floor was covered in shiny white tiles, on the right hand side was the small kitchen which looked as if it had never been used, all dark brown wood, everything other than the walls and floor seemed to be dark, in the middle, just off center was a light brown leather sofa, looking like something out of a uncatalogued with perfectly placed mostly dark green pillows all over it, in front a wooden coffee table, covered in what looked like his work, blueprints, sketches, as were some of the walls, along with some old, boring books on engineering and bio-mechanics, the only thing that looked remotely homely was the pristine black rug underneath. On the left was his actual work space, the whole side was one long work bench, most of it being covered in old take away containers and disposal crockery among the three computer screens, a few desk lamps, as well as a whole lot more work sheets and research, above that were various more blueprints and sketches on the wall.
Right ahead from the door, between two large old fashioned looking, wooden file cabinets was another doorway and a short hall that lead to the three bedrooms and the bathroom.
Merlin soon appeared out of the nearest on the right, I wasn't sure at the time but that one was his bedroom.
He had his Jack Russell in his arms, just a puppy still, no more than a year old, he was a very sweet dog, his body white with just a few light brown patches over him and a partly brown face with just a thumb sized strip of white down the middle, separating the brown.
“Elvis, this is Marlowe” Merlin muttered sweetly to his friend, giving him a quite kiss before putting him down.
I instinctively crouched down as he ran towards me with his tongue hanging out and a large grin on my face.
“Hey buddy” I cried as I stoked the dog. “Well, now I'm a hundred percent sure you weren't lying about two of the things you told me, the dog and the distance, now just for the rest of the stuff” I laughed.
Merlin just smirked.
“Are you ready?” he asked after a moment of watching me. 
“For you to change my life forever?” I badly mimicked him, completely over exaggerating. 
Merlin glared at me.
“I don't appreciate that, but, yes” he smiled.
“...I'm ready” I muttered, still just slightly unsure.
“Marlowe, what I'm about to show you, you can't tell anyone about, not even one person, do you understand?” I told me seriously, I could see how important it was to him so I took a minute to think properly about what would happen in the next few minutes, what I would see and how well I would react to it.
I nodded after a moment.
“Sure? There's no going back after it, I need to trust you” he asked again, seriously.
“You can trust me” I said honestly.
As I told him a grin crept up onto his face as he held his hand out to me.
I reluctantly took it, both excited and nervous, my heart beating out my chest with adrenaline and excitement, the most purest feeling of adventure I had felt so far.
“What I'm about to show, no one else in the world has laid there eyes on, no one even knows about it, just you and me, you'll be the second person to see it in the entire world” he told me excitedly as he pulled me across the room, over to this office, seeming genuinely glad and relieved to finally be sharing it with someone, by the way it seemed, he had been keeping it a secret for a long time.
“Sit down” he told me as he pulled the chair with a huge grin.
“Alright” I muttered with an eager smile as I did what he said.
 I must have been sitting there for a few seconds, waiting in anticipation before it was all eventually revealed to me.
Something that was about to change everything.
I looked up at Merlin standing behind me first, he had the biggest grin on his face with his hands in his pocket he cleared his throat.
“Maya?” he called out casually.
Before I even turned back to the computer I heard a gasp.
“A new person” a child squeaked excitedly.
On the computer all I could see was a voice wave, covering the whole screen, I wasn't sure what to think of it first.
“Say hello then Marlowe” Merlin encouraged me, smiling sweetly as he watched on.
“Hello” I said slightly hesitantly.
“Hello Marlowe” the little girl cried.
“Marlowe, this is Maya” Merlin explained as he took a seat beside me.
“You look like a princess” the voice told me.
I just laughed.
“You can see me?” my eyes narrowed as I glance at Merlin.
“Of course I can see you silly, you're right in front of me” she giggled.
“I- I don't understand” I muttered blankly. 
“What's not to understand?” Merlin smirked. “I created her, I created Maya” he told me.
“Is- is Marlowe my mummy?” she asked sweetly.
“No, she's not but Maya, Marlowe's going to help look after you, she's going to be your friend, if she agrees. Do you remember what I told you before?” he explained gently to the child.
“When I get big?” she asked in amazement.
“Yeah, when you get your body very soon, would you like that?” he said smiling.
“Uhuh, we, we, we can play together all the time can't we? We'll have so much fun won't we?” Maya cried in exhilaration.
I couldn't wrap my head around any of it, it was completely crazy, I was talking to a computer screen, a computer screen that understood everything I was saying, a computer screen that sounded just like a real little girl, I was having trouble believing it.
“But Maya, Marlowe still has to decided on whether she wants to” Merlin told her, glancing at me with a confident smile.
“Doesn't she want to? Marlowe, don't- don't you want to be my friend?” the little girl's voice wobbled, sounding upset.
I couldn't speak, I felt like I couldn't breathe, I had to get away, I jumped off of the chair and ran to the sink, having trouble catching my breath.
“What's- what's wrong?” I heard Maya asked as I threw some water on my face.
“Marlowe is just excited Maya, she's fine, just, wait a minute okay sweetheart?” Merlin told her before he rushed over to me. “Are you alright? I know it's a lot to take in” he asked in concern as he placed his hand on my back.
“Really?” I yelled. “...You can't do that to me, you can't guilt me into it, this- this is all completely mental, I don't know if I can take it” I cried as I struggled to breathe.
“Don't yell, she'll get upset, she hates it when people yell” Merlin whispered sternly, glancing over at the computer. “I wasn't guilting you into anything Marlowe, don't you understand what this is? It's the most important thing you will ever do in your life, that anyone will ever do, don't tell me even for a second you were thinking about running away, I know you weren't, stop pretending, stop worrying so god damn much and open your eyes” he told me sounding insulted.
I just stared at him, unsure of how to respond I let myself slip down onto the floor, resting my head in my knees.
“This is crazy, this is so crazy” I muttered, feeling completely overwhelmed by it all.
“It is, I know it is but you can handle it Marlowe, please, don't let it scare you, don't let it ruin you, it's crazy, take it as it is but don't you walk away, you know you'll regret it” Merlin told me passionately, bending down in front of me. “Please, I need you... I need someone to do this with me, I can't do it by myself” he practically begged. 
“Why me? Why?” I muttered as I pulled my head up.
“Because I believe in you” he smiled sweetly, his eyes sparkling.
“What- what do I have to do?” I asked after a moment, glancing at the screen.
Merlin took my hand and pulled me back over to the desk.
“You have to help me give this little girl a life, that's all, the most normal life possibly, you, we have to teach her, everything, I know what you've done Marlowe, how many children you helped and what you had to go through while doing that, if you handled that, I don't see how this will be different” he explained.
“Are- are you going to be my friend or not Marlowe?” Maya asked me.
I watched Merlin for a moment until a smirk filled my face.
“Of course I am” I told her, laughing to myself, only just coming to terms with it myself.
Maya cheered joyfully, filling my face with my grin, I had absolutely no idea what I had gotten myself into but Merlin was right, there was no way I was ever going to pass up the opportunity, no matter how entirely metal it was, I had to really and Merlin had known that from the start.
“I already like you so much more than Merlin” Maya giggled.
“Hey” he cried, glaring at her.
“You don't even need a teacher then do you Maya? You're already the smartest person I know” I told her.
“No one's smarter than Merlin” Maya whispered.
“What? That's just silly” I laughed. “Who told you that?” I smirked.
“Merlin did of course, he's the only one I know” she muttered quietly, sounding down.
“Well not anymore, you know me now don't you” I grinned, I really did feel for her, only knowing one person was bad enough, but that person being Merlin, couldn't have been a lot of fun.
She just giggled.
“How old are you Maya?” I asked curiously, glancing at Merlin as he walked away, leaving us to get to know each other.
“Merlin says I'm six but I don't think I'm that old” she laughed. “How old are you?” 
“Me? I'm six too” I joked, testing her slightly.
“No you're not” she cried, giggling at me.
“What? Yeah I am, how old do you think I am?” I asked, trying my best to treat her like a real six year old, everything she had said so far didn't make me feel as if she wasn't but I had to remember, she wasn't human.
“Hmm, twenty six? Like Merlin” she guessed.
“Twenty six?” I gasped, pretending to be offended. “I'm not a granddad like Merlin” I told her smirking.
“Okay, okay, I know, I know, twenty two?” she laughed.
“Twenty five, just a little younger than him” I eventually told her.

I must have spoken to her for a good hour, the longer I did the more and more I forgot what I was talking to, she was perfect, it was easy to forget, for a moment I even found myself questioning the truth, she was far to amazing and realist to be anything but human.
It was only certain little things that she said that help me remember, maybe not that she wasn't real but that she really hadn't been outside of that screen, she was so sheltered and unaware of the world, less than an actual six year old would be, all she knew was what Merlin had told her, what he had taught her, nothing outside of that. It was just the simple things, thing that weren't at all important but that a six year old should know that really bothered me, silly things like how she had never heard of a barbie doll, how she had never seen a cartoon or how she didn't know the taste of ice cream, it actually extremely upset me, all of the things she was missing out on. She had the brain of a child, the thoughts, the feelings, the imagination yet she had never experienced any sort of childhood, she hadn't played with toys, ran around a garden, been to a park, meet any other kids or even had a cuddle.
There was only so much I could explain to her, I soon became more excited for her to get out of that screen, that small box she was in than even she was, her naivety and innocence actually helped her with that but I couldn't wait to experience everything with her, I was already caught up in her, already attached to just her voice, her personality.

After a while Merlin returned with some lunch in his arms, he had left the house and I hadn't even realized.
“Marlowe” he cried with a little gesture for me to follow him, staying out of view of the webcam.
“One second Baby, I'll be back in a minute” I smiled to Maya before glaring at him. 
“Okay” she muttered sweetly. “I'll miss you” 
“I'm only here” I called out laughing at how cute she was.
“I know but I still miss you” she giggled.
“What?” I then whispered to Merlin so she wouldn't hear.
“I got lunch” he told me quietly.
“I can see that” I smirked with narrow, confused eyes.
“No but we can't eat in front of her, she'll get upset, believe me, I know” he explained.
I compositely understood, I already felt guilty enough without rubbing it in, so I quickly joined in on his at first seemingly strange behavior.
“What do we do?” I whispered.
“Maya? Sorry sweetheart but I have to steal Marlowe away from you for a while, she will be back soon alright? We'll just be in the other room, I'll call you when we're done” Merlin cried out.
“Promise she will be back?” Maya mumbled.
“Of course I will baby” I told her gently.
“Okay then” she said sweetly.
“Can we really just leave her?” I whispered to Merlin.
“Parents don't spend their entire lives right in front of their kids Marlowe, we'll be fine in the other room” he laughed.
“Yeah but, what does she even do in there? It's not like she can just entertain herself is it?” my eyes narrowed as I thought more about it.
“She'll be fine okay, she goes into a sort of standby, it's like no time has passed, don't worry okay” Merlin smirked as he pulled me across the room into his bedroom, carefully hiding the food so in case Maya saw, she wouldn't ask too many questions.

Merlin's room was plain just like the rest of the house, with the same white floor that just had a cream rug down and the same walls, this time completely bare with just an oak bed in the middle and a matching wardrobe, chest of drawers and set of bedside tables, nothing else at all, no laps or photos anywhere.
We sat down in silence on his dark blue bed sheet as he laid out all of the food he had picked up from the local co op down the road, just some sandwiches and a couple of packets of crisps.
“I wasn't sure how hungry you were or what you liked” he explained as he handed me the food.
“This is fine thanks” I smiled as I happily opened the box. “Will she, will she ever be able to eat?” I asked curiously after a second as I looked around the room, suddenly very aware of what we were doing.
Merlin just shakes his head.
“Why- why does that bother me so much?” I laughed as my eyes started to water.
“Because you're a good person Marlowe, that's why I choice, you're enough human for her as well you know, you have a good heart” he told me. “I could see that, that's why I choice you, do you know what the very first moment I realized that was?”  
I shook my head, looking down away from him, smiling because of the nice things he had said. 
“I saw you on the news, I don't usually watch TV but that day, at the exact time you were on I did, you were smiling and laughing in a classroom in Africa I think it was, after helping build a new school, I could see it in you then, I could see your heart and I just thought, yep, it's her” Merlin explained.
I stared at him for a moment with sparkling eyes.
“...Is that even remotely true?” I cried one since had made it's way back to me.
He didn't answer, he just smirked to himself, not giving anything away as he bit into his sandwich.
“...So, when, when does she get her body? When is the day?” I grinned up at him.
“Tomorrow” Merlin told me casually.
“Wait what?” my eyes widen in disbelief.
“Tomorrow” he repeated.
“Seriously?” I cried out with a large grin, completely delighted by the news.
He just nodded, leaving me to get excited by myself.

For the rest of the afternoon, after we had eaten I went straight back to talk with Maya, I no longer had to feel sorry for her so I we could look forward to the future together.
Merlin sat with us for a while but mostly left me to it, it was now my job, I had to take care of her, to teach her about the world and most importantly, to be her friend, for now that's all I had to do, I wanted to get to know her first, then in time, once she was ready, we could start having lessons, teaching her things like reading and writing, maths, science, history, but there were so many things that had to be done first though, I essentially had to catch her up on the first six years she had missed out on. 

My time with her seemed always seemed to pass so quickly, before I even knew it, it was coming up to seven o'clock and I hadn't moved from the computer since lunch, I had to be there at my parents house for dinner in half an hour. It wasn't until Maya started asking questions about my parents that I even remembered where I was suppose to be, I wasn't at all ready to leave and I didn't particularly want to.
All of a sudden I found myself rushing around after the very gently, slow paste day, I still needed to shower and change into some clean clothes, something I had been meaning to do since that morning, I had put my life on hold and jumping back into it was like being thrown into the deep end while asleep.

Merlin was sat beside me, busy working on the other computer so I left Maya with him as I rushed to the bathroom, dragging along my bag.
I washed and got dressed as quickly as I could and shortly returned to the living room in some black jean shorts, that at some point had been full length jeans, the jagged bottom being a reminder and a light and dark blue dark blue, ugly, floral shirt tucked in, that had never been ironed in it's life, the only things in that bag that didn't smell computer terrible. My hair was still slightly wet, only having enough time to partly dry it or even brush it so it just looked puffy and out of control. 
“Are you sure you don't want to go back to the shelter? You'd fit in perfectly” Merlin said as soon as he saw me, turning away from the computer I had left him with. I'd like to say he was joking but of course him being him, he was being completely serious.
“I don't exactly have a lot to choose from” I glared at him.
“You can pick up the rest of your stuff now though can't you?” he told me.
I just smirked to myself.
“This is all I have” I laughed, as I quickly at the last minute decided to tip everything out and onto the floor in front of the washing machine.
“Does, does this mean you're staying here?” Merlin grinned, watching me as he spun around in his chair, away from the computer.
“Please?” Maya cried excitedly from the screen.
“Hey, what did I say? Go to sleep” he told her sternly as he glanced at her for a second. Something that made me smile, seeing Merlin be responsible, being a dad was strange to see, but still, actually quite nice.
I was still adjusting to the idea but in all seriousness, it couldn't have gone any other way, I didn't want to be away from Maya any more than she wanted to be away from me.
“...For her” I told him after a moment with a slight smile before turning back to the machine, letting it fully form as I shoved everything inside.
I pressed on a load of buttons and bunged in a a bunch of washing powdered as Merlin watch on in disgust.
“What?” I asked as I noticed his face once I had made sure I had done' it right and that the machine was on.
“I hope all of your clothes are ruined when you get back” he said still with a sweet smile.
I didn't reply, I didn't have time to figure what I had done wrong so I just glared as I rushed out the room, grabbing his car keys off of the hook, carefully without him noticing.
“Don't say a word Marlowe” I only just heard Merlin yell out as I pushed the door shut, almost jumping up from the fear he had realized what I had done. I was already late, I couldn't walk and even though I was quite sure he would have happily driven me, I couldn't risk him inviting himself in, I was too tired to be keeping up all his lies, half of which I couldn't remember for the rest of the evening, as well as the fact I desperately didn't want him there for all of the other reasons as well.
Once I got home, dinner was all ready and mum was setting it up all up at the  table, my timing was perfect.

Although It wasn't the most exciting evening, I wasn't expecting it to be, but for once that wasn't a bad thing, I needed some normality after the day I had, it was nice to listen to my parents talk about what they had heard on the news and what their friends had done on holiday.
I didn't utter a word of Maya, even after I got interrogated about Merlin by my mother, who seemed to want to know everything about him, most of which I didn't know.
I knew I wasn't allowed to tell them but that wasn't it, I wasn't even sure if I wanted to, much unlike Merlin, I actually wanted to keep her a secret, at least to start with, maybe it was a selfish thing but it did make it easier, I didn't have to filter every word or worry about looking suspicious. 
What I did do though was ask more questions about myself than I usually would have, curious about my childhood, wanting to know what I was like at Maya's age, what toys I had played with and activities I liked, something that was particularly out of the ordinary, but that was the only moment I allowed myself to think of her.

After the surprisingly pleasant evening I finally left at around eleven o'clock as my parents began to wind down for the night.
When I got back to Merlin's house I found him fast asleep at his desk, in the exact spot I had left him.
“Hey, hey” I shook him to wake him up.
“You're back” he looked up at me with blurry eyes and a delighted smile.
“Have you eaten?” I asked. “Mum forced me to bring you some food back, it's still hot” I explained as I held a container out in front of him.
“Forced?” he whispered with narrow eyes, not seeming too pleased.
“Well it wasn't my idea” I laughed as I placed it in front of him.
“Shhh, you'll wake her up” he hushed as he quietly got up from his chair and crept over to the sofa.
I sat down beside him after getting a glass of water and fetching him a fork.
“I hung up your clothes to dry” Merlin told me gently as he took his first scoop.
“Thanks” I smiled, feeling just slightly out of place as I watched him take his first mouthful.
“This is good” he mumbled.
“No, no it's not” I laughed, mum definitely wasn't the best cook.
“I'm going to tell your mum you said that” he cried.
I just gave him an awkward smirk.
Some how the fact that we were living together had changed everything, I soon became very aware of the amount of time we would be spending together, I could just see it ending so spectacularly badly, something that made me very uneasy.
“...We really need to get you some nice underwear by the way” Merlin added blankly, with a cheeky smile, seeming to notice my distance.
I glared at him, no matter how true it was, I hadn't thought of that when he had first told me, Merlin had touched my underwear, although the thought and the image repulsed me, it did somehow make me feel more comfortable, he was quite good at that for some reason, few people could.
“They're quite terrible” he added, smirking to himself.
I then nudge him playfully, causing him to drop the rice he had on his fork all over himself, immediately making me laugh.
“Alright, that's it” he cried after a second, putting his food down safely on the table before he jumped at me with a childish grin.
“You, you started it” I stuttered giggling as I blocked my face from his gently punches, unable to move as he was sitting on me.
“I don't care” he cried as he laughed. “...I wonder, is Marlowe Matthews ticklish?” he said after a moment.
“I thought you knew everything about me” I said snobbishly.
He didn't reply he just went ahead with the tickling, which I was in fact very ticklish.
It must have gone on for a good few minute before he got slower and slower, both of us breathing deeply, we were the only sound filling the large room. He just sat there, his face hovering over mine, in that moment I had no idea what was going to happen, I knew he found me attractive, as I did him, I honestly had no idea if I would have gone through with it. I thought he was going to kiss me, his eyes were sparkling, his lips were smiling and he was right there, but he didn't, he didn't even try and I have no idea why.

All of a sudden he just stopped, as if nothing had happened, he pulled himself away and sat back up straight, leaning back on the sofa casually with his food back in his hands as he began to eat again.
I slowly sat up as well, watching his curiously, thinking back at those last minutes, I had no idea what it was, I felt like I was wrong about everything, I definitely would have never imaged it to go that way, I didn't know whether it had changed now I had done what he wanted or that I was staying with him, I stated to doubt everything I knew about him, I thought maybe I was right before, that he was an actual decent human being after all. 
Whatever it was it just added to everything, the intrigued he seemed to bring out of me, the strange attraction I felt for him seemed to be growing slowly and that still scared me, I didn't want it to, I didn't want to like him, but I couldn't help it.

After that we mostly just sat in silence until he had finished his food.
“Alright, I'm, I'm going to go to bed now” he told me blankly as he stood up from his seat, somehow the roles had turned, now he was the seeming distant.
I waited for it, I waited for him to say something inappropriate but he never did, he didn't make any sort of crude remark, inviting me along, or suggesting we share a bed. 
It was strange, by then it had sort of become the new normal, I was expecting it and in a weird way I wanted to hear him say it, but he didn't even look at me again after that, he just went into his room and closed the door, leaving me still sat there.

I sat there for a while longer, trying to work out what was going on in his head, was that the real him that I had seen, the person behind his act? Was that what made him uncomfortable? The fact that I had seen behind the curtain or was there something more going on?
Instead of going to bed excited for the amazing day I was sure I was going to have when I woke, looking forward to all of the wonderful things Maya and I were going to do, I just laid there, with not one thought of her, my mind was stuck on Merlin, feeling quite empty as the few things I did know rattled around, as if my mind had been wiped blank of him, left with yet again more questions.
At least one thing still remained the same, Merlin fascinated me, more than a girl who lived inside a computer and that's saying a lot. 
I was determined to find out all I could about him, to find out who Merlin Knight was.

That day was the beginning, it would lead me to everything, it was the start of a whole different kind of adventure and I couldn't wait.

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Chapter 3: A new world

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Chapter 4: Real girl

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Chapter 5: Our secret

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Chapter 6: Single parent

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Chapter 7: Grandparents

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Chapter 9: A smaller world

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Chapter 10: The compass

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Chapter 11: Worlds expanding

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Chapter 12: The final test

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