Air rushed into my lungs when the pressure on my neck suddenly vanished. I fell to the floor as my knees buckled underneath me, and for a few moments, I could only lay there, gasping for air. And at first it was painful to breathe, because of the bruise that now was appearing on my neck, but I forced the pain out of my mind, and concentrated on getting oxygen into my every cell again. I could hear struggling now when sound finally came back to me. I opened my eyes, but darkness surrounded me at all sides. Someone was fighting in my apartment. I could clearly hear punches in the dark. I strained my eyes to see, but only shadows moving appeared clear to me. There were two males.
I crawled on the floor over to the door to find the light switch. I turned on the light, and couldn’t believe my own eyes. My mysterious, hostile desk neighbor was in my apartment, fighting a shadow. You heard me correctly, a shadow; a creature with no form. It hides in the darkness, but has a consciousness and can become solid. I now knew what had watched me in the park.
The shadow froze when I turned on the light, and it became unmoving in the middle of my well-lit apartment, before it faded away and disappeared completely. Caspian straightened up, and turned to look at me with those enchanting green eyes. I stared back at him, confused at why he suddenly had come to my apartment (luckily while I was being strangled by a shadow, but still). Now he seemed even more handsome. Suddenly I could see a cut on his left cheek.
“You’re hurt.” I said and rushed towards him, but he drew back.
“Stay back.” He growled. I froze, my hand stretched towards his face.
“Who are you?” I asked. He was so confusing.
“That’s none of your business.” He answered coldly.
“Then what are you doing in my apartment?” I asked confused. He seemed to be struggling with himself.
“I don’t… know, exactly.” He muttered and looked around the apartment. He made me even more confused with his strange behavior and answers.
“You don’t know? How did you get here then?” I asked. This question irritated him. His green eyes flashed dangerously.
“I walked by and heard you were in danger. Should I have walked on instead perhaps?” He asked. I shook my head, eyes wide in wonder. What was with this guy? We were in the third floor, how could he have heard me being in danger? Not even I had that kind of hearing. He couldn’t be human, not at all.
“Why have you come here?” Caspian suddenly asked, surprising me.
“Well, I was adopted…”
“Don’t give me lies. You live here by yourself. I know what you are, and I’m asking, why have you come?” He snarled, catching me off guard. I gaped at him now. How could he know what I was? I had been so good at disguising myself. It was foolproof.
“You know…” I paused, staring up at him, as he towered above me. He was so painfully handsome. “What are you?”
I could feel my dryad heart racing and heat rushing to my face.
“You really don’t want to know. Forget this ever happened. Go back to the Valley Elizabeth; you are clearly not wanted here.” He said and made a point out of not meeting my eyes. His brown, messy hair was terribly stylish, even though it seemed so careless, as if he hadn’t even touched it. My “name” sounded wrong coming from his lips, I wanted him to pronounce my true name, my dryad name, but if I gave him that, he would have total control of me.
“Forget I was even here.” He said darkly and swept past me, towards the door. I turned and stared after him.
“Wait!” I called, and to my astonishment he stopped, but didn’t turn to face me. He was impressive from the back as well. With broad shoulders and long slim legs. I imagined he was very muscular beneath those classy clothes he wore. He was wearing a pair of grey plaid trousers, a black hoodie and a navy coat.
“You’re something dangerous, aren’t you?” I asked, knowing this was the truth, but I wanted Caspian to confess it. He glanced over his shoulders, and his green eyes were glowing in the dim light of the hallway.
“I can be, if I’m provoked.” He said. “Good night, little nymph.”
Next morning at school, I met up with June, but didn’t mention what happened last night in my apartment and had covered the bruises around my neck with a scarf. I didn’t sit next to Caspian in calculus this time, because June had saved a seat for me next to her. I met the green hostile eyes of Caspian briefly before I looked away. I had seen something else in his eyes last night, other than hostility and anger. I had seen worry, he had actually worried about me, he had even fought a shadow for me. He impressed me, and he was such an intriguing person. I had spent the whole night wondering what kind of species he might be.
Miss. Jonesen entered the classroom, with her fiery red hair and her pink pants suit. She greeted the class, called out everyone’s names, and next walked around in class to check homework. I hadn’t done mine, because my head had been so filled up with thoughts it hadn’t even occurred to me. Miss Jonesen stopped by my desk, staring down at the empty page in my notebook. She sniffled.
“Miss Braveheart, you haven’t done your homework?” She asked and bent over my shoulder to make a point out of the blank page. I could feel a sharp smell of cheap perfume burning my nostrils and I leant away from her ever so slightly.
“No.” I said.
“No, that means detention.” Miss. Jonesen said smartly and straightened up again. I nodded.
“I’m aware of the rules.” I answered. Her eyes narrowed.
“Are you now? If you are, why didn’t you do your homework?” She asked snippily. I didn’t answer, I couldn’t answer that. I glanced at June who was watching me wide eyed. A low giggle reached my sharp ears, and I instinctively knew it belonged to Les Terrible, also known as Rachel. A second later a small pop from a chewing gum confirmed my suspicion. Oh she had no idea who she was messing with.
“Okay then. Miss. Braveheart, detention after school, classroom F116.” Miss Jonesen said and moved on to June, who had done her homework. Next were a couple of the boys on the football team, and then she came to Caspian.
“Seems like Mister Riverton will join Miss Braveheart at detention today.” My head snapped up and I briefly met his green eyes again, before he turned away from me. My heart pounded against the insides of my ribcage like a sledgehammer. I shouldn’t be like this, a nymph doesn’t get infatuated. It never happens, we’re distanced, and we calculate our relationships like in calculus, we never get smitten by someone unless it’s planned. We never get infatuated, but I was certain that I was. I had seen this guy only a few times, I had barely spoken to him, but my heart was trying to jump out of my chest already. It wasn’t right. Whatever Caspian Riverton had done to me, I had to undo it. I couldn’t risk my good reputation for a good-looking what-ever-species-he-is.
When it was time for my detention, June walked with me to classroom F116. She had told me everything about Mr. Harden who would sit with us through detention. He was a typical torturist, using his work to get in touch with his victims easily, she said, and he had made several students get a mental breakdown throughout the years. There were legends about the man. I wasn’t worried though, I was more worried about sitting beside Caspian, with the way my body was reacting to his presence.
“Well, I’m off. Darin is coming with me to the mall today. We could come and pick you up after detention is over, if you’d like? I’m making dinner today, you’d be very welcome.” She said. I smiled, still unsure about sitting in a car.
“You don’t have to wait for me. If I get your address I could just take the bus.” I said. June lit up and nodded, writing the address down on a piece of paper.
“Here, we’ll eat at five o’clock. The band will be there as well; perhaps we could watch a movie or something afterwards.” She said happily and danced away. I smiled and walked inside the classroom. It was almost empty, except for Caspian who was sitting on one of the desks farthest back in the room. He looked up when I entered and made a motion for me to come and sit next to him. It was a little strange, as he had told me to stay away and forget him only last night.
I walked over and sat down at the desk beside his. He was looking straight ahead.
“I need to know why you have come here.” He said. I sighed.
“You really don’t know?” I asked. He glanced sideways at me.
“Why would a forest nymph come to a human city by the sea?” I asked again. He seemed to think about it before realization dawned upon him.
“You’re trying to make peace.” He stated and chuckled. He actually chuckled at my attempt to bring peace between the forest and the water nymphs.
“It’s not that funny really, a constant war isn’t a laughing matter.” I snapped angrily.
“You can’t make peace with a species who don’t want peace Elizabeth. Why they’re sending shadows after you is somewhat strange though. It doesn’t really make sense. The naiads don’t interact with any land species. It must be something else.” He was muttering to himself now. I was confused again. So it wasn’t the water nymphs, the naiads that had sent that shadow after me yesterday?
“Wait, if the naiads won’t interact with land species, it’s a little strange that I found a letter on my door yesterday, signed from the emperor of the ocean.” I commented. Caspian furrowed his forehead in wonder.
“A letter? That’s absurd, the naiads don’t write letters. If they’d want to speak to you, you’d probably get company in the shower or in your bathtub. They communicate by the water channels.” He said. I watched him as he was pondering this new information.
“How come you’re so interested in this now, while yesterday you would have sold your own grandmother to not be in my apartment?” Caspian froze at my comment.
“You seem incapable of watching after yourself.” He said.
“Excuse me?” I asked offended.
“Well you’re a nymph, what’s a nymph going to do up against a shadow? You can’t run and hide inside your precious trees here.” He said reasonably. I snarled.
“So what are you that are so much more fitted to fight my battles?”
“I told you, you don’t want to know.” He answered coldly. He was slipping away from me again. He had been opening up ever so slightly, but I had closed him again. At the moment I didn’t care, he could have become a stone cold ice cube for all I knew.
“Why? You don’t think I could handle it? You think I’m weak?” I snapped angrily, feeling my heart race like a steam train. Someone cleared their throat loudly, and we both snapped our heads towards the front of the classroom. There stood a fit, bald man with square glasses. He looked vile.
“I hope I’m not interrupting your little flirt children, but detention has started.” He said in a dragging voice, looking from me to Caspian and back to me again. I shuddered. His grey eyes were almost evil. I could tell he enjoyed the psychological torture he inflicted upon his students. It gave him a sick sort of pleasure. Well I wouldn’t let him get to me; he was going home unsatisfied today. I could sense Caspian closing down completely now, not leaving a creak of his soul open anymore, he had obviously sensed the same as me.
After sitting still, in complete silence for a whole hour, detention was over. Mr. Hardy looked grumpy as he unlocked the door and let us leave. Caspian walked beside me to the exit.
“I don’t think you’re weak, I just think you don’t stand a chance against whatever is out there, longing to hurt you.” He said suddenly and stopped. I stopped as well and turned to him. In the cold sunlight he looked like a young, Greek God.
“What are you?” I asked intensely, again feeling my heart racing when I met his eyes. It wasn’t right, I didn’t even like the guy. Sure he had saved me from certain death, but he had done nothing, but offending me ever since. It wasn’t infatuation I realized now, it was influence.
“Why are you influencing me?” I asked shocked. His eyes widened in surprise.
“I’m not. Perhaps you’re infatuated by my devastatingly good looks.” He said suddenly very angry. I took a few steps back, surprised at his sudden change in attitude.
“Just, stay out of trouble, will you?” He snarled and then left, without looking back. My mouth was hanging open, catching flies and whatnot. Could this guy be for real? He was acting like a schizophrenic with a hero slash villain complex, which was making me a little dizzy to be honest. I was certain he had been influencing me though; because there was no way I would be falling in love with a douche bag who needed to straighten his attitude a great deal. I huffed and walked to the bus stop, wondering what bus I should take to get to 31. Brimmer Street on Beacon Hill. Lucky for me, I spotted a bus that went to Beacon Hill, and I hitched a ride.
It wasn’t far from my own home I realized as I was living at the west end, only a couple of streets away. The bus let me off at a stop in Brimmer Street, now it was just to find the right address. I soon found the house, just beside a church. The house was absolutely huge. The house, built completely in red bricks, and white stones around the windows was lovely, and must have cost a fortune. I supposed June and Darin’s parents were rich.
June opened the door and grinned when I knocked. She ushered me inside, took my bag and placed it beside her own. She showed me where I could hang my parka, and dragged me by the hand inside the house. The first floor consisted of kitchen and living room, the second floor of a well equipped home theatre and a “small” bathroom, third floor was the bedroom floor, plus a large bathroom, the fourth floor was for storage. I was amazed at the size of the house, and shocked to learn that Darin and Jane’s parents had died a few years ago.
“Come on, you can help me make dinner.” June said eagerly and we walked back down from the fourth floor to the first. On the third floor, the door to the bathroom suddenly went up and a very wet, and very well toned Darin came out of the bathroom, with only a small white towel wrapped around his waist. I guess we were equally baffled by the encounter, because we both stopped and stared at one another. I couldn’t help but steal a glance at his torso. It was tattooed by a large dragon and a firebird. When he moved, the muscles rippled the skin and the tattoos moved. Darin smiled awkwardly.
“Hello, I didn’t know you’d arrived.” He said and ruffled his black hair, making him look… quite wonderful. June cleared her throat and snapped me out of my human moment.
“Oh sorry, I was staring wasn’t I?” I asked and laughed awkwardly, blood rushing to my head.
“Sorry, I’m going now.” I said and turned, disappearing down the stairs, tailing June, who was laughing loudly.
When Darin came into the kitchen only a few minutes later, he was barefoot, but dressed in a pair of red jeans and a grey “The Ramones” t-shirt. I smiled at him.
“Sorry about that earlier.” I said and continued to chop the onion; the strong smell was stinging my eyes. Darin chuckled.
“It’s alright, I get that a lot. My tattoos are kind of impressing.” He said and grinned. I laughed.
“Yeah, they are.” I said, feeling giddy all of a sudden. This had to be the human response, because I had never experienced it before. Or perhaps this was what the fairy tales was about? Was this like the tales that were told as bedtime stories, about true love and all that stuff? Was I having a fairy tale moment? I glanced at Darin who had grabbed his own knife and plate, and now stood shoulder to shoulder beside me, chopping up salad. He was human though. Humans and nymphs shouldn’t really interact at all. It usually turns out for the worse for the nymph, who gets banned from the Valley for eternity. Did I mention that nymphs have a very long lifespan? And I’m not talking two hundred years, or even three hundred, I’m talking thousands of years. So the nymph, even though in love with a human, will live for several thousands of years after the human dies. A human life is like the blink of an eye for a nymph. Is true love worth it? I don’t think so.
Suddenly Chester and André barged into the kitchen.
“So what’re we eating today my love?” André asked June and gave the blonde a hug. I smiled, thinking the two blondes would’ve made a wonderful couple.
“We’re trying steaks again, as I ruined them yesterday; I’m determined to get them right today.” June replied, unfazed by his obvious attempt to flirt with her. Was I the only one seeing it? Chester grinned and leant against the fridge, trying to look careless. June threw a glance at him, looking disappointed at his lack of happiness for seeing her again. I sighed, and got a strange look from Darin. I nodded towards Chester, and he rolled his golden eyes.
“Hey Eliza, help me get a couple of beers will you?” Darin asked me, I got the point and nodded, following him out of the kitchen and all the way back to the refrigerated room, where they kept everything that was supposed to be stored in a cold place.
“So what’s Chester’s deal?” I asked once we were out of hearing range. Darin chuckled.
“He’s a chick magnet; everybody wants a piece of Chester.” He replied and started to pick bottles of beers from the shelves and giving them to me.
“You know June has got a crush on him, right?” I asked. Darin paused and looked at me as if I thought he was stupid and blind.
“Alright, sorry. Of course you know.” I muttered and looked down at my fang of seven bottles.
“We could try and… you know, be match makers?” I asked. Darin laughed.
“What? Like set them up? Hold on little girl, Chester is well aware that June is crushing on him, he enjoys it.” He explained. I nodded.
“I noticed, but I’m not talking about Chester and June, I’m talking André and June.” I said, and grinned. Now Darin looked intrigued.
“I like where your pretty little head goes.” He said, picking up another two bottles of beer. I raised an eyebrow at him.
“What? I might get thirsty.” He said and grinned lopsidedly. I laughed and shook my head. It was strange how easy it was to laugh around him. I smiled and nudged him.
“So we have to make a plan.” I said. He nodded.
“Sure, how about Saturday night at seven?” He asked. I looked confused at him.
“I can pretend to take you out on a date, and then we can discuss a plan in peace.” He said and grinned.
“Oh yeah, a pretend date?” I asked. He nodded.
“A pretend date it is.” I grinned and we headed back to the kitchen and butterflies fluttered around in my stomach threatening to make me fly a feet above ground. At least it felt like I was floating. What strange mechanisms the human body has. I med Darins’ golden eyes and smiled.