Ow, my head! Searing pain as I slowly sat up and blinked, my eyes adjusting to the light. What was worse, what was scary was that the pain was inside my head. Even if that meant it wasn't physical, the pain was unbearable and I reckoned that a painkiller probably wouldn't work.
I got out of bed and staggered downstairs, disorientated and in agony. I walked to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of milk. I grabbed a glass and poured out some of the white opaque liquid. I put the bottle away before drinking it down. Ah, cool. Refreshing. Thirst-quenching. But not as satisfactory as something else, something I couldn't think of that lingered at the back of my thoughts. Something that I needed yet couldn't obtain because I couldn't remember what it was. I found it queer how I didn't desire any breakfast: I always had breakfast. Breakfast was meant to keep you going during the day. But something like intuition told me to stay away from solid food and I wasn't hungry so I didn't eat. I was glad that the pain had eased up a bit. Hopefully it would just fade naturally and if it didn't, well, what could I do about it?
I wandered to the bathroom and took a shower, vaguely noticing I was unusually pale for the time of the year. I got dressed and let my mum know I was going out for a walk, due to the cloudlessness of the skies in which the sun shone brightly. This sort of weather was rare for England and not to be missed out on.
Sitting on a bench in the park were a young couple. That oughtn't to have surprised me, but I was strangely reminded of something I'd felt before, someone I'd known, when I saw the dark-haired boy. I felt I knew, or should know, the blonde girl too, but not as well as the man who could be no more than four or five years older than me.
I walked up to him, intrigued by how I seemed to recognise this complete stranger.
"Hey," I said.
The guy looked up, looking startled. "Er, hi."
"I'm Taylor," I said, not really knowing what I was doing.
The guy's brow furrowed slightly. Up close, he was stunningly handsome. I almost lost myself in those slightly widened brown eyes.
"Um, I'm Darren," he said.
"It's a lovely day today, isn't it?" I asked.
Darren nodded, looking mystified. I didn't blame him.
"Do I ... know you?" I asked.
The man shook his head. "I don't think so, no."
"Oh, um, sorry," I said, suddenly feeling awkward and embarrassed. What was I doing standing here and making conversation with someone I didn't know? I must seem awfully strange.
"That's okay," he said.
"Bye," I said, wanting the world to swallow me up as I walked quickly away.
A bit later, I was standing on a bridge quite near the lock on the river. I was gazing out across the murky water, framed by the foliage and graceful willow trees. I heard footsteps behind me but didn't turn as someone came up and stopped beside me.
"Hi." It was Darren.
I turned. "I'm sorry about earlier," I said. "I really have no idea what came over me."
Darren looked slightly wistful. "That's okay."
"Where's your girlfriend?"
Darren's brow furrowed. "Girlfriend? Oh, you mean Charity!" He smiled. "She's not my girlfriend."
"Oh, sorry." I felt incredibly uncomfortable now.
"Don't worry. Easy mistake to make."
I looked up into those wonderful eyes where chocolate was melting around the black circle in the centre of the liquid-like depths. I felt like I was falling.
"Was... was there something y-you wanted to say?" I asked, struggling to speak.
"Um, not in particular, no." The guy sounded amused by his answer.
"Oh, um, okay then." I tore my eyes away and gazed back across the wide expanse of flowing water, hoping he hadn't noticed how taken I was by him.
The man sighed beside me. "What would you do if you loved someone but you'd hurt them so much there was no chance you could ever be together?" he murmured, so quietly that I barely noticed the question was addressed to me.
"Um... Are you asking me for my advice?"
"Well,... I don't know."
"You don't have any sort of idea what you'd do?"
"Nope. I've never been in that situation."
"Well, let me explain mine and then you might be able to give me a few tips."
"Er, okay, then." I was nonplussed by this guy's desire to discuss his personal problems with me.
"Right. I love this girl who's currently suffering from amnesia so doesn't remember me, but I annoyed her and she ended up hating me because I made it look like she was cheating on a guy she went out with on a date."
I was momentarily distracted by the strangest of feelings that the girl he was referring to was me. I shook the feeling and considered the man's situation.
"Um, well, she's going to be angry for a while when she recovers from the amnesia but if you're a decent person and you try to make it up to her and she has the capacity to like you after what you did to her, I'm sure you can slowly become friends with her until one day, she might like you as more than a friend."
"Oh. What if I'm not a decent person?"
I looked up and frowned at this strange man. "I'm sure you are, even if you maybe don't realise it. Everyone has something good in them. But, if you're really not, which I heavily doubt, then you don't have a chance, to be frank. Unless the girl has a really low self-esteem, in which case you should maybe stop pursuing her because a horrible boyfriend is the last thing she needs."
The guy seemed to take a while to process this. "And...," he hesitated, "what if her life is in danger if she is my friend?"
"You have a very strange life."
"Tell me about it," he said, rolling his eyes.
"If you're a threat to her life, you should be wondering if you really love her, because wanting her back is a strange way of caring for her."
"Oh. So if I could stop the amnesia, I shouldn't?"
"Um, I don't know... These are really tough questions. Er, if you can stop amnesia, do so, because it's not fair on the girl to have a big gap in her memory which is always going to bother her."
"Would she want to be friends?"
I sighed, exasperated. "It depends on the girl! Is she a grudge-bearer, good at hating people? If so, no. But if she's kind and she finds it difficult not to forgive [I suddenly realised I was describing myself], she might. If she's sane, she'll stay away from you because you pose a threat to her life but if she likes you and doesn't want to stay away from you, she'll try and find you."
"Final question: what would you do if you were the girl?"
"Back away slowly and then as soon as I was a safe distance away, I would run until I was panting from exertion and forced to stop from pain."
"Oh. So, does that mean you're a sane grudge-bearer?"
"Well, I'm naturally not going to say I'm insane but I never really considered myself good at hating people before."
"Okay. Well, thanks for the help."
He turned as if he was going to leave.
"Wait," I said. "What was the reason for all this?"
The man turned back and smiled wryly. "You are the girl."
He walked away leaving me stuttering out incoherent phrases in shock and disbelief. The guy must be crazy! That would explain why he was discussing his situation with a total stranger. And I was a stranger. I could not believe that I was the girl he'd been referring to during this strange conversation.
I walked home confused, frustrated by the guy's mysteriousness, angry at myself for believing him, incredulous but most importantly, wondering if what he'd said was true. Sure, it was a crazy idea but if I had amnesia I would naturally have no recollection of ever having seen him before in my life. I had an odd urge to run back to the park and look for him, feeling sure he'd be waiting, and ask him to stop the amnesia since he'd claimed he was able to.
I went to bed early and awoke at about nine o'clock knowing I couldn't stand this anymore. I jumped out of bed, got silently dressed - I was not talking to a strange man in my pyjamas, though a part of me reminded me I probably shouldn't be talking to strangers anyway - and let myself out of the house. I walked quickly to the park, half-afraid the man would have disappeared and that this mystery would never be solved.
Thankfully though, I found him on the first park bench I approached.
"Taylor?" he asked, sounding amused.
"Hi," I said nervously. "I, um, was thinking about what you said."
"Can you really stop amnesia?"
"Yes ... and no."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it wasn't technically amnesia - I just told you that so you wouldn't get freaked out."
"What was it then?" I asked, half of my mind quite unable to believe I was having this conversation.
"Well, I'm just going to say the thoughts moved to the back of your mind. You'll remember when you wake up."
"Wake up? I'm ... not asleep ... or tired, actually."
Darren stood up, only about a foot away from me.
I shook my head.
"Are you sure? It must have been a long night if you only decided to come to me now."
"Er, I'm quite okay."
"But... the night air's so ... warm, don't you think? Cosy, like a blanket. And with the sun about to set, the light isn't too much. Such a comfortable atmosphere. Isn't it just so ... soporific?"
I was about to answer no again but I found myself yawning.
"I thought so," the man said, smiling. "Did you want to take a nap?"
I nodded, though I hadn't really thought about napping until he'd mentioned it. I walked over to the bench and lay down on it before drifting into a dreamless sleep.
"I missed you so much," Darren murmured as I awoke. "Even one day was too long to be without you. But, I've made it so hard for you now. Your parents know you're not dead, you seemed like you could cope not remembering you were a vampire and ... you were happy, or at least not miserable."
I sat up, feeling groggy. "What happened?" I asked.
"You forgot me, forgot you'd ever met me and then I decided I didn't want you to not know me anymore."
The explanation was contained in his next spell of musing. "I'm such a danger to you. I made you forget me and that was for the best, but waking you up was just selfish."
"Why did you?"
"You wanted me to."
"I wouldn't have done if you hadn't said anything."
"True. I claim to love you, but really all I want is to be in a relationship with you."
"I haven't forgotten my hatred of you."
"It was easy for Matt to persuade me to want to be his. And ... Daniel's life is ruined, isn't it? The VRS just lost their best, most dedicated member."
Darren cringed. "You wanted to be Matt's?"
"I didn't say that. I'm just saying it seemed like you could be as bad."
"So, there's no hope for us?"
"Was there ever any?"
"Once, I thought so. And ... nobody kisses someone if they truly despise them, no matter how hard they try to deny they dislike them. But that was too long ago to count as a reason to hope you might want to be with me. I'm sorry."
"You should be."
"I shouldn't have made you a vampire. I've said that before, but I wanted to reiterate my regret for bringing you into this dangerous world. Even if you acted totally normal around your parents, they'd eventually notice you weren't ageing."
Darren looked incredibly sad. I almost - almost - felt sorry for him.
"So here come two millennia of despair," I said. "Thanks a lot, Darren. Thanks an awful lot (!)"
"If there was anything I could do..."
"There isn't," I said harshly. "You were so sure I was going to love you that you didn't think once about the potential consequences of your actions. You were complacent. I don't even want to know you anymore. Have fun while I suffer, Darren. Enjoy your unrequited love, you lucky devil because that's the only thing you're going to suffer, while I'm stuck with my life at a premature end. Oh, and ignore what I said before. Leave Charity well alone. She doesn't deserve to have her life ruined by the destructive nature of yours. It would be a crime against nature for your fates to become intertwined."
"I love you," Darren whispered.
"You blatantly don't."
"You're so cold inside... I did that. I'm so unbelievably sorry."
"Why are you still here, Darren?" I asked, exasperated.
"I ... don't want to go."
"Come sit next to me," I said, mood not changing.
He looked confused as he came and perched beside me, looking unsure as to what to expect.
I bit his neck, to his great surprise, sucked up a bit of blood into his mouth, ignored the taste, carefully extricated my fangs, being careful not to dribble any of the blood on his throat and turned to spit it out on the ground.
"There you go. I did it."
Darren looked pained.
"You don't love me," I said simply.
"Don't! I don't want to hear it, whatever it is. I've just proved you don't love me. Now go away and leave me alone."
Darren brought his knees up and rested his feet on the bench, burying his head in them while his hands clasped his hands around his shins.
"I do love you, Tay," he said, his voice muffled. He looked terribly like a child.
"Well, go on and love me, then, though you really don't understand what love is. Just don't expect me to feel anything for you."
"I'd do anything for you." He sounded despairing as he looked up with pain-filled eyes.
"Oh, shut up! You know, I'm glad you made me remember because I actually thought you were handsome when I didn't know you."
"My heart's depressed. Please, Tay!"
"Will you quit being pathetic?!"
"What d'you want in a guy, Tay? I'll be all those things!"
I could tell he was desperate. He wasn't in love with me, he was obsessed. He was a broken person who needed a rock to cling to in the constant storm that was his existence. Under that mask of contentment, there was a crying child who'd lost his parents and found himself in an unfamiliar place. He was, quite literally, insane.
"Tay, I can't live without you!"
"Darren, you need help," I said gently.
"No, this is what I need." Quite suddenly, he threw his arms around me and began to kiss me. I tried to push him away but he was too strong.
‘Darren, get off!' I thought.
‘No! You're mine, Taylor Kensington!'
‘I'm not yours! I'm my own person.'
‘I beg to differ.'
It was painful as he crushed my body against his. I was quite worried for my safety.
I felt the uncomfortable wood of the park bench in my back as Darren forced himself on me. If he wanted me to love him, he was totally going the wrong way about it.
‘I'm so lonely,' Darren thought to me. ‘Everyone died, but you: you'll live longer than me. We can be together for the remainder of my two millennia on the Earth and we'll be so happy. We'll get married and go on a romantic honeymoon. I know you'll like that. You kissed me, Tay. Twice. You kissed me.'
‘Darren, it didn't mean anything! Please get off me - you're hurting me!'
‘We'll be so good together, Taylor. No one loves better than a vampire.'
How had I not seen he was mad before? Oh Taylor Kensington, I thought to myself, you have gotten yourself into a pickle.
I was forced to just sit there while this crazy, scary Darren kissed me.