Over the next few days, between school, homework, meals and sleep, I met up with Rory. We often went on long walks or sat in the shade while the brilliant sun blazed.
I found out from the conversations we had that he was 17 (three years older than me), liked big cats (like me), enjoyed reading (also like me) and didn't have any ideas about the future.
"What, none at all?" I'd asked, during this particular conversation.
Rory had nodded. "I don't see myself in any field of work."
"But ... don't you have dreams?"
Rory shook his head, smiling wryly.
"But everyone has dreams."
"What do you think about? Life is empty without dreams."
Rory shrugged. "I think about food, sleep and not using my ‘talents'."
"How ... boring. Don't you dream when you sleep?"
Rory looked uncomfortable. "Well, I have this one recurring dream: it's a nightmare, though. D'you mind if I don't tell you?"
I shook my head. "But don't let it bother you."
Once, something strange happened. I think Rory had been tired that day - he'd taken a little longer to respond to the conversation - and he'd yawned. His eyes had turned the colour of caramel and I had been immediately transfixed.
"Wow, your eyes," I had murmured. I think I had sounded a little hypnotised.
"My eyes?" Rory had asked, sounding startled, his eye colour snapping back to its usual brown.
I had been able to look away. I had pushed this incident to the back of my mind, thinking ‘It was probably just a trick of the light or something'. That night, however, I'd had a horrific nightmare.
I'd been walking around at night when I'd seen Rory. I'd approached him cheerfully but stopped metres away from him, horrified by what I'd seen. His eyes had been the colour of caramel, his hair had had streaks of pure silver in it, his skin had emanated an unearthly glow and his facial features were sharper.
He'd been beautiful but so were lynxes, so were white tigers - he'd been beautiful but deadly.
"This is what I really am," Rory had said. His voice had no longer been soft like down like it usually was: it had been hard and cold.
He'd stepped forwards with feline grace. I'd been rooted to the spot, mesmerised by his eyes. He'd closed the gaps between us, lifted my limp and useless wrist and opened his mouth to reveal a pair of fangs flanking his front of teeth, short and curved and very sharp-looking which had lengthened before he'd bitten down.
I'd woken up sweating. Something stopped me from telling Rory about this dream as if I were afraid it was real.
It was a month after we'd seen each other at the store. Rory had texted me to tell me to meet me at the place where I'd been sketching an elephant on the day he'd saved my life.
I ambled over there, curious about his choice of meeting point.
When I got there, he was waiting, smiling mysteriously.
"You look as if it's your birthday," I told him.
"You could make it that happy," he replied.
"Really?" I asked sceptically.
Rory nodded, looking serious.
"I have ... a question, although it's more of a request but one which you are perfectly entitled to refuse."
"Okay," I said.
Rory grinned. "Would you like to go out on a date with me?"
"I'm sorry; did I just hear you right?" I asked, bewildered.
Rory nodded, smile broadening.
"Wow, I'd never have guessed," I said, amazed and flattered.
I shook my head. "This is a total surprise."
Rory looked at me searchingly. "Good or bad?" he asked.
"Good," I said, smiling. "What were you planning?"
"That's a yes?"
"It's a yes to the idea of a date..."
He startled me by throwing his arms around me.
"... but I'm asking what you intended to do," I finished.
Rory let go of me, beaming.
"A stroll beneath the stars," he replied.
"No," I said hurriedly, suddenly thinking of my nightmare.
"Why not?" Rory asked, puzzled.
"I'm ... scared of the dark," I lied.
Rory frowned. "Really?"
"You've never said anything before."
"You've never asked."
His brow furrowed but he shrugged. "Why don't you suggest something?"
"Hm, a picnic in the evening by the river."
Rory smiled approvingly. "I like that."
We grinned at each other.