When I woke up, Jester was gone. The space beside me on the bed was empty, the sheets only slight crumpled. I guessed he really was an early riser.
I sat up, stretching my arms above my head. My whole body felt so stiff for some strange reason, like I had run miles. The memories from the previous day began to slowly return to me and I grimaced. I had obviously upset Jester with my unexpected flashback. I had absolutely no idea who the hell 'Lukah' was, and yet his face was so painstakingly familiar, for unknown reasons. I felt like I should recognize him. My heart ached longingly whenever I thought of him and my stomach knotted uncomfortably.
Then there had been the issue of Adder's return. There was something incredibly dark and sadistic in the way he had spoken. In the way he had Calla pinned against the wall and in the way he had addressed us all. It wasn't like Adder's normal mannerisms. It was as though any trace of humanity he might have had had completely perished and in its place was something merciless and terrifying, with no regard for anyone but himself, a certain callous indifference to those around him.
Footsteps outside the door broke me from my reverie.
'Jester?' I called out.
There was no response.
Confused, I peeled the duvet away and started for the door. However, something made me falter. It wasn't something I was entirely familiar with. It felt like a strange mix between relief, anxiety and desire. Burning desire.
I could hear the footsteps approaching closer, but I was rooted to the spot, mostly due to these unjustified emotions. I wondered fleetingly if it was Adder, but I remembered that he couldn't venture out in the daylight. I got the distinct impression that it wasn't Jester.
The wooden door creaked on its hinges as it was pushed open.
The figure stood in the threshold was immersed in shadows. He was facing me, but all I could distinguish was a dark shirt with the sleeves pushed up to reveal tensed arms and clenched fists, the tendons standing out against ivory skin.
For what seemed like hours, but could have only been seconds, I was stood facing this man with the unidentifiable features. It was as though we were held in each others gaze; neither could move or look away first.
But then he took the first step.
That one, small insignificant movement that made all the difference.
As the morning sun illuminated his face, bringing features into clear view, I inhaled sharply. Everything seemed to slow down, the whole world came to a screeching halt. My blood ran cold and my heart stopped beating.
Black eyes. Short, jet black hair. A sharp, clenched jaw. Ivory skin.
'Lukah,' the name fell from trembling lips.
The guy from my flashback. The person from my own wild imagination was now stood facing me, very much alive and breathing. So very tangible. If I could just outstretch my hand...but then he may disappear. Why was I so opposed to that idea?
When he spoke, it felt like concrete evidence. It cleared away any doubt that I had.
'Where...how do I know you?' my voice was barely above a whisper.
'It's not supposed to be like this Ana,' he frowned slightly, obviously pained. 'I loved you. I still do. Not a day goes by when I don't think of you.'
'Who are you?' my voice cracked and my eyes stung.
'Do not cry, my love.' He closed the distance between us, gently wiping a stray tear away with his thumb. 'We are safer this way.'
With mild surprise, I realized I was crying. But why?! I didn't know this person stood in front of me, the one declaring his love for me, and yet I felt so comfortable in his warm embrace, so at home.
'I had to make the ultimate sacrifice,' he murmured into my hair. 'To ensure your safety. Just know we are both safer this way and I will always love you.'
'Ana?' Jester's voice sounded from the doorway, shattering everything.
I blinked, and discovered we were the only two in the room. I had never felt so cripplingly lost in my entire life as I did right then. But then came the guilt. The guilt at Jester's worried, wide eyes and panicked voice. The guilt at this unknown stranger and how abandoned I felt when he had disappeared.
'Jester,' I mumbled, glancing up. 'I'm so sorry.'
His expression twisted into one of pain. 'For what? You didn't do anything.'
'For everything. I don't deserve you. You're too good for me.'
I felt like the worst person in the world right then, and none of it made any sense to me.