Just before the grasp of sleep possessed me, two cool, strong arms fell around my shoulders, and I let myself wander into the peaceful harmony of the night, against David’s chest.
The sweet, chocolaty smell of David stirred my senses through the night, waking me with surprise when I looked up and saw the golden morning sun on his cheek. “You stayed!”
“Of course.” He stretched his arms out above us. “You asked me to.”
“Yes, well,” he said, his arm landing back down around my shoulders. “In the past, I didn’t only have two days left with you.”
That put a dampener on the day.
“No, it’s not.” He rolled me onto my back, his long body against the length of mine. “Just don’t think about it. In fact—” He couldn’t help but smile, his eyes drifting to a thought. “Why not go back to thinking about that dream you were just having?”
“My love—” He kissed my nose, “I saw everything.”
“God damn mind readers!” With a feisty huff, I threw the covers back and headed for the shower—and maybe a few minutes of unheard thoughts.
“Your thought patterns are not mollified by short distances, Ara. I can still hear you,” he called out as I shut the bathroom door.
“Argh! Stop it.” I covered my ears, as if that would help, but I couldn’t stop seeing those images; David and I—naked, tucked in a loving embrace. And the worst part was, all of it was my own imagination forming dreams out of desires. It was like writing a porn entry in a diary and having someone read it out loud. It was just too personal to share.
I took off the jeans and green sweater I slept in last night and stuffed them in the laundry basket, burying my undies and bra in case David needed to use the bathroom.
“I’ve already seen your underwear, my darling girl,” he called out. “You don’t have to hide them now.”
My shoulders dropped with a vocalised breath. At least there was one good thing about having a mind-reading vampire boyfriend—I’d had plenty of practice at emptying my thoughts and focusing on nothing. I was sure, in some odd way, that could be a good skill to have.
“Speaking of skills,” David said from just outside the bathroom door, “we need to rehearse for the benefit concert. I’m not even sure which song we’re supposed to be playing now.”
I reached into the shower and twisted the faucet on, then stood back and waited for the water to get hot. “Um, we’re doing that one from that movie—the one Nathan liked.”
“Well, you know which one I mean,” I said, getting frustrated. “I can never remember the title.”
“Are you still doing a solo performance?” His voice echoed slightly too loud through the door, making me cringe a little in case Dad should hear.
“Yeah, and we’re also doing Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
David didn’t respond. I waited, looking over my thin body in the reflection of the shower glass for a second, but when the silence lasted, I stepped into the welcoming steam whorls and ran my hands over the water falling through my hair. The running water and locked doors offered me a kind of privacy I wasn’t used to anymore—one where I could imagine my thoughts were unheard...just like my shower singing.
“Ara!” I jumped out of my skin at the sudden thud on the door. “Save some water for future generations, please.”
“It doesn’t take your mother that long.”
By mother, he meant Vicki. “She has short hair, Dad.”
“Hmph. You’d do a lot more than just groan if you knew I had my boyfriend in my room right now,” I said under my breath. Thing was, Dad would freak if there was a boy in my room, but I bet he’d take it really well if I told him David was a vampire. I think he’d see it as a rare opportunity to hear tales of History firsthand.
I sighed heavily, feeling the full weight of everything I learned about David and his history yesterday. I pictured him there still, by the grave, but when he folded over and buried his face in his hands to hide his tears, it was my name carved in stone behind him. And one day, that scary thought would be a reality.
Slowly, my hand rose up through the swirling steam cloud and rested against the foggy glass. Droplets of water melted around the base of my palm, and as I exhaled a breath of sorrow, the delicate touch of David’s long fingers appeared on the other side of the cold barrier. “Don’t cry, Ara,” he said in a deep, soothing whisper. “Please, please just don’t cry.”
“How can I not cry?” We rested our heads against the glass. “I don't want you to hurt that way, David.”
I could feel a kind of magic between us that I was sure I’d never find anywhere else in the world; it was like, even though our flesh wasn’t touching, I could feel him against me—feel him from somewhere deep within. And when he wasn't around, I felt a kind of emptiness that seemed unnatural. “I don’t know if I’m strong enough to miss you for the rest of my life,” I whispered, watching the hot, steamy water run wasted down the drain below my feet.
“Then don’t.” He exhaled, and as quickly as he’d appeared, he was gone again, leaving my hand against the glass, alone.
The phone rang while I struggled, in the privacy of my wardrobe, trying to pull my light blue cotton dress over my head; it rolled up, catching on my not-quite-dry skin, and stuck halfway down my waist. I tugged harder, a rise of frustration nearly turning to tears. I didn’t want to miss that call if it was Mike ringing before he got on the plane. What if it crashed and I never got to hear his voice again? What if it—
Oh, God, don’t tell him that! He’ll freak out, thinking you’re watching me, or something. I pulled my dress down and tripped all over myself to get out of the wardrobe. “I’m here. Gimme the phone.”
David grinned, holding his index finger up. “No, no, nothing like that.”
“Yes. It’s all she’s talked about for the last couple of weeks,” he said, then laughed.
“Okay, okay. That’s enough.” I snatched the phone from him and, assuming I knew who he was talking to, said, “Hi, Mike.”
“Great. You at the airport?”
“Yeah, just thought I’d make sure you hadn’t forgotten me.”
“Yeah right. It’s all I’ve talked about, isn’t it?” I poked my tongue out at David.
Mike laughed. “Well, I’ve been looking forward to it, too. And I expect the biggest hug you’ve got tucked into those skinny little arms tomorrow, Ara.”
“Oh, trust me, I’ve been practicing my squeezing,” I said.
“Uh-huh, but you get a different kind of squeezing.”
“Oh, fine then, I know where I stand.” I could hear the amusement behind his feigned insult.
“Still in exactly the same place as always,” I added.
“Okay, well, have fun today, and…I’ll see ya tomorrow.”
“Yep, bye.” I had to dig my heels into the carpet to stop from bouncing around like a little girl. And as the phone disconnected, severing the lines of communication to my best friend, an empty feeling swallowed my soul for a second until I looked at David. But he looked troubled—leaning back in my chair, drumming his fingers on the desk, his thoughts a million miles away. “David?”
He looked up at me—snapping out of his stare.
“You’re right.” A very cheeky grin lit his eyes. “He did not approve of my being here while you were getting dressed.”
“So, he’s overprotective. I know the sort, Ara, he will ask questions about me.”
“Can you read his thoughts over the phone?” I said as I walked over and leaned my butt on the desk.
David shook his head. “No. I can only read certain electrical wavelengths—which don’t communicate over the phone. But I’ve been around humans and been subject to their thought-patterns long enough to make conclusions from very little detail.”
“Like one of those cool detectives on those crime shows?”
David laughed, resting his chin on his hand. “Yeah, something like that.”
“And you think you’ve summed Mike up, huh?”
He scratched the corner of his brow, taking a deep breath. “All I know is it’s a good thing I won’t be here during the day. I can’t be around you if he is.”
“I might be tempted to kill him,” he muttered with a certain amount of animosity; my mouth fell open a little. “He thinks he has some claim to you.”
“Really?” My cheek tightened on one side with a half-smile. “You know, you’re cute when you’re jealous.”
“Ara, be serious.” David leaned forward, elbows over his knees, looking at the floor between his feet. “I don’t know, maybe I should leave now. It’s just too risky. If he gets wind there’s a guy in your room every night, you know what he’ll do.”
“Look.” I sat on the desk, letting my bare feet dangle. “You might think he’s got some weird Spidey sense that can track the scent of another male like a mother to cigarettes on her son’s breath, but I’m not sure I really care if he finds out I have a guy in my room at night—not right now I don’t.”
He looked up at me. “Ara, if he finds me in your room and we’re forced to meet in person, it will only be a matter of time before he starts asking all the wrong questions.”
“And I’ll give all the wrong answers. I won’t tell him the truth about what you are.”
“It’s not the questions he asks you that I worry about—it’s the ones he asks himself.”
“Well, will it be that bad if he figures out what you are?”
“You mean aside from the fact that he’d steal you away from me, take you across the country, lock you in a closet, then fly back here and start a pitchfork rally against me?”
I laughed, rubbing my hand over my neck where droplets of cold water dripped down from my hair. “You know, the chances are he’ll figure something’s not right, anyway. I mean, especially when I refuse to laze around and watch movies with him at night.”
“I know. But—” He reached up and wiped an escaped droplet from my chest. “Well, I suppose it’s only for two weeks, right? Maybe we’ll be lucky to fly under the radar.”
“And my being away during the day will be good practice for you.”
“Practice? You mean for being without you for forever?”
“Don’t try to justify it, David.” I hopped down off the desk and leaned on my dresser—away from him. “You working for two weeks before you leave has no bright side.”
I raised a brow at him, then looked away, scoffing internally.
“You will be happy again, one day.” David’s voice softened as he whispered in my ear, suddenly beside me. I spun into his arms and let my head fall against his chest.
“I wish you could stay for just a few more years.”
His arms tightened ever so slightly around my shoulders. “I do too, my love, but even if I could stay with you, why would I? So I can watch you fall in love with someone else, or see you miss your chance?” I looked up to see his jaw stiffen and his eyes narrow. “I don’t know which is worse.”
“You will—” he nodded, “—because you can’t promise me eternity. And one day, I know there’ll be some boy who’ll come along and sweep you off your feet, just as I have.”
“No.” I shook my head. “I won’t let that happen.”
“And I will not let you lose your chance at love, at life, Ara.” His voice rose an octave. “When you feel it—that pull toward love, I want you to take it. I want you to go with it.”
“But I’ll never truly love another—not the way I love you.”
“But it will be enough,” he said. “And you can have your life; you can watch your babies grow, become an old lady and—” he smiled, “—get arthritis.”
“Somehow that all seems kinda silly now.” I rolled my eyes at myself.
“But it’s not silly, my love. It’s not silly at all.” His eyes softened, his thumb gently waking the hairs on my face, calling them to stand on pleasant ends. “Our love is a gift, Ara. It’s more intense and inexplicable than any love I’ve ever known, and it will always be a part of us.”
“Love is stronger than the physical being. I don’t need to feel your lips, your touch, or to hear your words to know you will always love me. And you know that, too, deep inside.”