Mr. Norton’s low-pitched bark startled me from the half-asleep state I’d been in, causing me to jump in my seat.
“Uh…” I glanced around the room, searching for a hint of what was going on. I heard the snickers of my classmates around me, the impatient tapping of Mr. Norton’s shoes on the linoleum floor.
“If you would pay attention, Ms. Kemp, then you would know that we were discussing the psychological qualities of Hamlet,” he sneered. “But clearly, you find this to be too much of a bore, so feel free to go back to sleep.”
It was the most I’d ever heard him say. Mr. Norton was more of a read and scrutinize type person. I risked a sidelong glance at Griffin, who was scowling down at his desk.
I myself looked down, cheeks flushed in embarrassment. Had I really fallen asleep?
When the bell rang, I couldn’t gather my books quickly enough. Griffin and I parted in the hallway for second hour, and it seemed like an eternity until I arrived at the cafeteria. Ever since I had begun to snow, we’d taken to eating at one of the unoccupied corner tables, alone and cut off from the rest of the student body. It was much louder, but it was much warmer too.
“You’re quiet today,” I noted as I opened up my milk carton.
Griffin only shrugged. “I had a long night. Someone kept me up past three.”
I bit my lip guiltily, and Griffin chuckled. “I forgive you, I suppose,” he said. And then he added, “After you fell asleep, I compared some of the sketches I did of you to the girl from my dreams.”
I looked up, hoping to meet his gaze, but he was looking away. “And?” I prompted.
“And, they look almost the same.” I looked so magnificent in his drawings. It wasn’t me at all; it was the dream-angel I’d found so beautiful back in September.
“What does it mean?” I asked quietly.
Griffin lifted a shoulder in another shrug. “How the hell do I know?” He replied. Then softer, “It means that we were meant to find each other.”
I smiled a little at the idea that some freakish force of nature found Griffin and I to be a perfect as I did, but the smile faded as I rephrased my question. “I meant the dying part,” I whispered. My throat had gone suddenly dry as my mind ticked off options.
Griffin, too, seemed paler than usual. “Nothing,” he snapped. “It doesn’t mean a thing.”
I went straight home on Friday so that I could see my mom off. However, due to traffic and such, by the time I actually threw open the apartment door, it was already nearing four-o-clock.
My mother was, as always, in a frenzy, her reasonable-sized suitcase already sitting beside the door.
“Arielle, have you seen my black v-neck?” I heard my mom scream from her bedroom. Suffocating a sigh, I hollered back “It’s in the top drawer of your dresser.”
Shirt in hand, she came storming into the kitchen. “The nine-o-clock flight was cancelled, and five is the only time we can get out of here,” she explained as she unzipped her bag and dropped the shirt inside.
I nodded dumbly as she hoisted up the bag and leaned over to give me a loose hug. “I’ll call you,” she promised, kissing my cheek. “Be safe.”
And just like that, she disappeared out the door.
I didn’t bother to remind her that I loved her.
Once she was gone, I sauntered into my own room, throwing my backpack into the corner and tumbling onto my bed. The silence that filled my bedroom and the rest of the apartment only intensified as time went on, however, and quickly became too much to bear.
Forcing myself up slowly, I emptied the contents of my backpack out onto my floor and began to throw in all the necessary items I would need for my night over at Griffin’s. Since there were relatively few, it took all of about seven minutes. And then, because I couldn’t take on more second of being alone, I left.
All throughout the day, I continuously pondered the connection between Arielle and my dreams. The likelihood that it was all mere coincidence seemed slim, but, really, I couldn’t come up with a single explanation.
“Griffin, dear, would you get the door?”
Cordelia’s demanding voice brought me out of my trance. I rose fluidly from the chair which I sat on in the dining room, and made my way to the foyer.
I pulled open the door and found myself looking into Arielle’s gray-blue eyes. Her pale cheeks were tinted with red from the chill, and her lips were curved up into a smile.
I moved aside to allow her in, shutting the door tightly and locking it behind her. She had been over enough times by then to know the drill; she slipped out of her shoes and coat, leaving them in the foyer, and then headed towards the kitchen to greet Cordelia.
“Arielle, darling, how are you?” As usual, my grandmother was all over Arielle in a heartbeat. I allowed a tiny grin to creep over my face as I watched her hug the elderly woman awkwardly.
“I’m fine,” Arielle assured her. Out of the corner of her eye, she glanced over at me. The attempt at discretion was pointless, however; nothing got past Cordelia’s watchful gaze.
With a dramatic sigh, Cordelia pushed herself out of the ebony chair. “I’ll let you two have some time alone, then.” She looked to me as she brushed past and disappeared into the hallway, her expression a mixture of warning and amusement. I adverted my own eyes to the floor, silently counting to ten until I dared step towards Arielle.
“Shall we?” I asked, gesturing towards the spiral staircase. She nodded slightly before hurrying to my side.
It was no longer uncomfortable to be alone in my bedroom with Arielle. The initial unease had worn off long ago, and now it just was. Arielle took her normal place atop my bed and within a second I had joined her.
She looked up at me in that innocent way she had, her eyes wide and her lips somewhat parted, the way that made her look so trapped and lost and helpless. And, as usual, I felt the pull, telling me to take her away from the world she hated so. To hold her in my arms and make her believe that hope really did exist.
Tentatively, I reached out a hand to her, and of course she took it. I pulled her towards me gently, slowly, until she was beside me and I could embrace her.
“Everything’s alright now,” I murmured into her hair. I didn’t know what had caused that awful expression to plaster itself to her face, but I wanted to do all in my power to make it go away. No matter what it took.
Tipping her face up gently towards my own, I pressed my lips to hers softly. She reacted accordingly, lacing her slender fingers in my hair and kissing me back twice as hard. She fell back onto the bed, pulling me atop her, kissing me still. We became one person, moving in unison, the world fading away until it ceased to exist, leaving only us behind. She moaned under my mouth, her hands moving to my chest as she gently pushed me away.
“Griffin,” she whispered, pulling away. I shuddered at the sound of my name on her lips. It was magical, impossibly beautiful. Oh, how I loved her. No combination of words could have expressed the passion I felt for her.
I held her gaze, her stony eyes seeming to stare straight into me, until she suddenly looked up.
I followed her gaze to the massive crucifix hanging above my bed. And when our eyes met again, there was a smile playing on both our lips.
“It just wouldn’t be right,” she whispered.
We both sat back up, straightening out our clothing and smoothing our hair. And then, of all things. A nervous giggle escaped her lips.
“What is so funny?” I asked in amusement. A few seconds later, and Arielle was completely doubled over in hysterical laughter. Unable to restrain myself, I allowed a few laughs of my own to break free. I leaned over and kissed her again, gently this time, slowly. She was still laughing as she wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled me down to her once again.
The laughter died instantly, however, when Arielle’s cell phone suddenly sounded from where it sat on the nightstand.
She hurriedly reached for it, attempting to steady her breathing as she flipped it open.
“Hello?” She said in a shaky voice. I watched her intently as the smile vanished instantly from her face.