“Ara?” Dad sighed. “You know better than that. What were you—” He stopped, almost visibly biting his own tongue. “It doesn’t matter. When we get home, you need to go straight upstairs. Vicki and I will fix you some food and bring it up. Okay?” Dad looked in the rearview mirror.
I nodded, letting David pull me closer to his saturated shirt. We were almost home now. The sweet smell of the frangipani trees in Mr Herman’s garden scented the cold, wet air coming in through Dad’s window, and I breathed the last few minutes of David I would ever get.
Dad let David carry me upstairs, much to my disgust and against my very strongly worded protest. When we stepped into the warm, soft light of my room, a wave of relief washed away the tight feeling in my chest. David stood me on the ground, pulled the quilt back on my bed, then lowered me onto the mattress—smoothing the rain away from my legs before sliding my shoes off my feet.
“Thanks.” I smiled down at him.
“My pleasure.” He smiled back and, as he stood up, placed my shoes neatly, side-by-side, next to my bedroom door.
Something clicked then; the air stopped flowing to my lungs for a second and pieces of my life over the last few weeks started to fit together. My window—that night—I closed it. But it was open—in the morning.
“Lay back,” he said, and I did, very slowly, all the while moving pieces of the puzzle around in my head. He pulled the quilt up to my chin, sitting himself on the bed beside me.
“Yes, Ar—” He frowned at my wide-eyed expression, then stood up, stiff and slow. I saw his throat move as he looked over at the shoes. I looked at them, too.
That was all the confirmation I needed.
“You snuck…into my room?” I said. “Why? I mean—how did you even get in here?”
“I—” He stopped and straightened up suddenly, keeping his eyes on me. “Come in.”
“Hey, honey.” Dad popped his head in, smiling widely at a plate in his hand. “Made you a salad sandwich.”
“Thanks, Dad.” I sat up. Though I was hungry and felt pretty sick because of it, all I wanted was for him to go away so I could figure out what the hell David was doing in my room that night and, more embarrassingly, how long he’d been watching me.
“Mrs Rossi called,” Dad said, sitting beside me, handing me the plate. “She asked me to tell you that she was overwhelmed with happiness to see you today and not to worry about fainting, because if you hadn’t done it first, she would have.” He laughed softly. “And then she added that she wouldn’t have had a handsome young man there to catch her.”
“I told her I’d have caught her, but, apparently—” Dad looked a little solemn, “—I’m not a handsome young man.”
I smiled softly. “It was nice of her to call.”
“We all were,” David said, then moved away and leaned on the wall beside my door, his arms over his chest, a thousand thoughts dancing across his face. And all I read there, in his eyes and on his brow, was agony.
“Ara?” Dad waved a hand in front of my stare.
Clearing my throat, I looked at the smile badly masking his concern and almost laughed. “I’m okay, Dad. Really. I guess I just need to eat.”
He exhaled, relieved, I guess, and nodded. “Okay. Do you…need some time alone?”
One of David’s brows arched up slightly.
“Just give me a second to talk to David?”
“Sure thing, honey.” Dad stood up and patted David on the shoulder as he passed, shutting my door behind him.
The silence in the room hovered over the howling winds outside. David closed his eyes for a second, rolling his chin toward his chest. I wondered who should speak first; the prosecutor or the defendant.
“Eat,” he said, out of the blue.
My eyes narrowed and I bit my teeth together. “I think you have a few confessions to make before you go asking me to do anything.”
His arms dropped to his sides with a heavy sigh. “I’m not talking until you’ve eaten something.”
Keeping my eyes on him, I picked up the sandwich and tore a corner away with my teeth. “Happy?” I muttered with my mouth full, slamming the sandwich back down on the plate.
David nodded once, the frown he wore erasing the usual smile from his eyes. Everything about him seemed odd without that smile. Empty, almost.
“Okay,” I said after I swallowed, “I’ve eaten now. Fess up, for once.”
He walked slowly over and knelt by my bed, taking both my wrists and setting them gently beside my legs. “I love you. I would never do anything to hurt or dishonour you, and I would never intrude on you in a corrupt manner. But, I did come to your window and I did come in to your room.”
“I’ve been worried about you. Your dad said you were suicidal, and I wasn’t sure if he might be correct. After we—” he rocked his jaw, blinking a few times, “—after I kissed you and then took you home, I—I knew what you were thinking, Ara. I knew you just…wanted to stop the pain. I was really worried you might. So I—” he shrugged and jerked his head to my window. “I jumped through. Came to check on you.”
“So, it was you who put me into bed?”
David swallowed. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have interfered. But, when I found you at your dresser, I nearly fell to pieces. You looked so alone, so destroyed, and worse, Ara, I did that to you. I made you sad because I never told you the truth—that I’d be leaving. If I had, you would never have let yourself fall so in love with me, and the worst part is, that’s exactly why I didn’t tell you.”
“That’s so horrible, David. How could you be so mean?”
“It wasn’t my intention to be mean. I just wanted to love you. I really, honestly thought things would be different—that when it came time for me to leave, you either wouldn’t care as much as you did, or you might—” He exhaled, rubbing his brow.
I sat up and dumped the sandwich beside me. “Come with you? That’s an option?”
He frowned. “It’s always been an option.”
“Well, why didn’t you tell me?”
“You—” His frown deepened. “Ara, you broke up with me before I had the chance.”
“Yes, because you’re leaving! If we could stay together, that changes everything.”
“As does coming with me. Ara, you couldn’t—” He huffed, pursing his lips. “You couldn’t live a normal life. You wouldn’t be able to see your family anymore.”
“Are you ready to hear them? Are you ready to hate me?”
“Are you really going to tell me or are you going to start, then say you’ll tell me later?”
He ran a hand through his hair and sat on the bed beside me. “I shouldn’t be doing this today—you’re in an emotional state.”
“Uh-uh!” I wagged my finger. “Don’t you dare. You are telling me, Mr Knight.”
He let out a short laugh. “Fine. But—”
“But.” He turned slightly and grabbed both my arms, squeezing firmly. “By hearing this, you’re—well, you’re making a verbal agreement, Ara, as am I.”
“I mean…I have obligations to fulfil, should this go bad.”
His fingers tightened around my arms again.
“I might have to kill you.”
“If…” His jaw went tight. “Look, in the past, people have not taken this news well and there have been instances where, some in my position, have had to kill those they’ve told.”
My mouth hung open. I rolled my quilt away and slowly rose to my feet.
David shuffled back, letting me walk to the other side of my room.
“Would you really be capable of doing that to me?”
He looked down. “I…I don't want to. Which is one of the reasons I haven’t wanted to tell you, thus far.”
“No, Ara. But if you—if you told anyone, if you freaked out, it would be out of my hands.”
“I hope you don’t.” He smiled and patted the mattress. “Sit with me.”
I shook it again. If this secret was so bad he might have to kill me, there was no way I was sitting next to him. No way!
He looked down at his hands. “Ara, I’m a vampire.”
“A vampire—guys who drink blood, you know—fangs, all that stuff.”
I burst out laughing, folding over a little.
“No, it's cool. Hey, can you turn me?” I rolled my neck. “I think I'd suit immortality.”
He rubbed the bridge of his nose. “You know, this isn't a joke.”
“P—” He shook his head, wiping the incredulity from his lips. “Prove it?”
“Yeah. If you’re really the undead, prove it.”
“Ara, we’re not undead.” He stood up. “And what do you want me to do to prove it, eat you?”
I had time only to smile before he rushed in and wrapped his arms around my waist, nuzzling his face into my neck. The tickly sensation of his cool breath sent a shiver down my spine, allowing warmth to return only once my heart skipped a beat.
“You are a very silly girl,” he said calmly, pressing his lips to my shoulder. “What if I’d bitten you? What then?”
“If you really were a vampire, you could do a lot worse than bite me—if you wanted to.”
“Right. If I wanted to.” He stood behind me and gently swept my hair over my shoulder, clearing way for his lips. “Remember that when you freak out in a minute, okay?”
“Okay. Now, see that rise of hills over there?” His finger aimed to the eastern hills where the first rays of sunlight touched the earth each morning.
“There’s a garden on the other side. Blue roses grow there. Have you seen it?” He went back to kissing the curve of my shoulder.
“The Applebury Reserve?” I rolled my eyes, lost in pleasure. “Yeah, I’ve seen it.”
“It’s twenty miles away. How long do you think it would take to run there?”
“I don’t know? Depends how fast you run. And then, calculating that would involve math, so...”
David’s irritation blew out in cold air through his nose. “What if?”
His arms tightened on my waist and he pressed his cheek to mine. “What if I told you I could do it—run there and be back before you had a chance to blink?”
“I would say that you are very talented—” my voice trailed up with humour, “—and I would be jealous.”
“But it would prove I’m a vampire; you’d believe me then?”
“Yeah.” I spun around, hands on hips. “Let’s see what you got.”
He looked out over the hills, then back at me. “So, you know the Applebury Reserve is the only place that grows blue roses, right?”
“Okay. Don’t be scared.” He inched away, holding up his index finger. “Please don’t scream when you see this?”
My eyes locked to his. He smiled, standing so tall and so sure of himself. It was hard to doubt him when he looked like that. I almost hoped he could do what he claimed. I’d hate to think he was actually insane.
He scratched his temple for a second then held his palms out. “Nothing in my hands, right?”
He turned them over a few times; I nodded to confirm—again. “Now, don’t move?”
“Okay,” I started to say as a cold rush of air blew into my eyes. I closed them, feeling a tickle down my cheek, and the sweet, vibrant perfume of roses filled the air around me—flavouring my breath with a walk in the garden.
“Look.” His hot breath brushed right against my ear. When I opened my eyes and they met with his, he watched expectantly, a ghost of anguish pinching his brows.
“Huh!” My quick gasp made him smile. “How did you get that?”
“I told you. I run very fast.” He smoothed the petals of the blue rose over my cheek again.
“Yes. That is fast. I am jealous.” My eyes narrowed with scepticism. “Now, tell me how you really did it.”
David groaned in the back of his throat and took a step away. “I can see this is going to be a little more of a challenge than I anticipated.”