I woke up with a start. Whoa, that dream had been so vivid. Where was Darren? Where was I? Was I at home or had that been a dream too?
I sat up and looked around my surroundings warily. I was in an unfamiliar room, lying on an unfamiliar bed. The walls were a calming blue and there was a window. The curtains were closed at the moment, but I could tell from the light shining through them that it was early morning. I sat up as someone knocked on the door.
"Come in," I called.
In walked a concerned looking Daniel.
"Are you okay? You sounded like you were having a horrible dream."
"Yeah I was. It was so real."
"You poor thing."
"Where am I?"
"You're in a VRS facility. We usually use this place to rehabilitate the homeless but Darren dropped you off here and we could hardly throw you out onto the streets."
"The VRS? Wait, does that mean you're still a volunteer."
"That's brilliant! You didn't lose heart after all."
"Well, I did, but I thought it wouldn't help vampires we could help, like the hungry and the poor."
Daniel smiled. "But I realised something good."
"You did?" I asked, delighted by his change in mood.
He walked in and came to sit beside me. "Yeah. I realised I could love you."
"No! That's..." But I didn't even get to say it was brilliant because Daniel's lips were on mine. If that hadn't stopped me from talking, I still wouldn't have said anything because my thoughts were swept away by Daniel's love for me and my elation at the fact we could be together.
He broke away, looking at me with adoration in his wonderful green eyes.
"I love you," I murmured, laying a hand on his.
"I love you too."
"Do you want me to get you something to drink?"
"In bed? I shouldn't really, that's very lazy. Considering some people in here might not be able to walk."
"I don't care about the other people," Daniel said. "Only one vampire here is important and that's you."
"You can't have favourites," I laughed.
"Oh, can't I?" he asked, playfully kissing me.
"Not when the work you do is so important."
"Sorry, what was that? I was momentarily distracted by your eyes."
"You'll be proposing next minute," I teased.
Daniel winked. "I'll go and buy the ring."
I picked up his hand and kissed it. "I don't want you to go."
"Well, just come with me everywhere, then. I'll wait outside while you get changed - I was surprised they even let me enter a girl's room - and then we'll go and get some breakfast. How does a mug of warm milk sound?"
"Mildly satisfying, but really I'd prefer blood. I know you don't like the idea of it, but if you know when to stop, you won't hurt the person you're drinking from."
"You have to be fussy, don't you?" Daniel said, sighing in mock exasperation.
"Yup," I answered happily.
Daniel stood up and walked out. "Love you," he called before closing the door.
"Love you too," I called back.
It was like a dream come true. I finally had a boyfriend. A good and decent boyfriend who would always treat me right, who'd respect me for who I was and who definitely wouldn't ruin my life. It was great luck that Daniel wanted to be with me after I'd worried I'd never see him again.
Somehow, though, throughout this happiness, I felt incomplete. As if part of me had gotten left behind when Darren had decided to bring me here. Part of me was in the apartment, exchanging blood with Darren for the enjoyment of it and to bind us together as we shared sweet kisses before going out to hunt together. I shook myself out of my reverie. What was wrong with me? I loved Daniel. I'd never loved Darren. I put my strange daydream down to the fact I was ridiculously happy and that Daniel was waiting outside the door ready to reciprocate any kiss I gave him or even to give me one just for being his girlfriend.
Girlfriend. I sighed at the word. I'd finally found love and been accepted by the one I desired to be around. Life, or existence, rather, had never felt so good.
After Daniel had allowed me to drink from the first passer-by I saw, we went for a walk in the park.
"So, how was life when I left you?" Daniel asked, looking slightly anxious.
"Well, after the first time, I really hated Darren and it was unbearable to be alone in the apartment with him but then I was kidnapped by Matt and that wasn't pleasant either. The next time you left, I was really sad because we'd totally ruined your view of the world. It really is a sweet idea that your will is strong and you can get through anything."
"I miss thinking that way."
"I wish there could have been a way of letting you maintain that belief. I actually want to believe it too, knowing that Darren won't be around to remind me of it."
I sat down on a park bench. Daniel sat beside me, looking wistful.
I gazed into his green eyes and allowed myself to become transfixed by the changing verdant hues. Light green to grass green to jade to dark green to the green of ivy leaves and back again to light green. A cycle of mesmerising colours. I let myself fall until I felt like I was inside a kaleidoscope.
Subconsciously, I'd been leaning towards Daniel and I was surprised when my lips touched his.
I broke away briefly to murmur, "The only way anyone should belong to another person is like this."
And then, I was in bliss.
My thoughts suddenly turned dark. I stopped and gently pushed Daniel away, disturbed.
"What's wrong?" he asked, reaching out to stroke my hair.
"Oh, nothing. It's just I suddenly thought about my nightmare."
"Let me chase your thoughts away," Daniel said, grinning, and leant forwards to kiss me. I let the power of his love push away the frightening images that had unexpectedly appeared in my head for no apparent reason.
As we ambled back to the hostel, hand in hand, I was once again filled with that sense of dissatisfaction and incompleteness. It was weird to be experiencing elation and unhappiness simultaneously. I worried about what this meant about my feelings for Daniel. I hoped I was in love with him; he deserved a lover with his big heart and willingness to help people.
That afternoon, we were surprised when Darren came to visit me. My initial reaction was one of annoyance. I was happy now and here, he was spoiling things. But when he entered the room (Daniel had answered the door and was now fetching a glass of milk for him), I was filled with an odd pleasure.
"Darren!" I exclaimed, jumping up, feeling cheerful, and walking over to give him a big hug. I further surprised myself when I said, "I've missed you."
Darren gave me an odd look after I let go.
The sometimes-present gap in my chest wasn't there anymore as I beckoned him to come and sit down on the sofa (we were in a living-room type area).
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Well, I had a nightmare yesterday but I'm really happy because Daniel and I are going out." It somehow felt wrong to be saying this. I wondered why.
"Well, the nightmare doesn't sound too good but I'm glad you two are finally together. What was the dream about?"
"Well, I'd been hypnotised to forget you then I met you in the park and then later on, you forced yourself on me and you were obsessed with me rather than in love."
"Oh." Darren's brow furrowed. "Well, I don't think that bears any resemblance to the real world. Unless you want to check I'm not obsessed."
"How would I do that?"
"Read my thoughts of course. Do you want to?"
I chuckled. "No, I believe you."
"You sure? You're quite scared."
"Oh, you didn't realise. You poor thing. You're in shock."
"The fear's subconscious," he explained. "It's sort of affecting your actions, though. Like the hug. I'm certain you wouldn't normally give me a hug, as much as I'd love to hope you would."
"Oh, I see. Is there any way to stop it?"
Darren nodded. He smiled and gazed into my eyes.
The brown depths were comforting and relaxing and gently looked deeper and deeper (seeming to see my thoughts) until I was wondering why I wasn't in a trance.
"Because I don't want you to be," Darren murmured, answering my unspoken question.
"Can ... can you read my thoughts like this?" I asked.
"I can read your thoughts normally, Taylor."
"That's not quite what I meant. I mean, you usually hear them, right? Well, that's what's happened in my personal experiences. But do you... feel them more? Like, if I knew how to block my thoughts and you weren't the vampire who changed me, could you read them just by looking into my eyes?"
"Well..." Darren hesitated. "That's a very random question."
"Not really. That's what it feels like. Like you're seeing the most private parts of my mind."
"Um... Well. Looking into your eyes naturally lowers any barriers you try to put up so I would be able to see your thoughts if you'd been trying to block them before, but as for feeling them more... I don't know what you mean, really."
"Well, I don't know either, to be honest. That's just how the question occurred to me. Do you feel ... immersed in them? Like they're clearer, or they make more sense?"
"I've never thought of you as crazy so they always make sense but I suppose they're a little more defined and I can see and hear a little more of what's behind the thoughts that are located at the ‘front' of your mind but I don't feel immersed in them as such. Why do you ask?"
"I like it," I replied, once again startling myself.
"You like what?"
"The feeling that you can read me and understand me."
I was deeply troubled by what I was saying. What would Daniel say if he were here?
Darren sounded dubious. "Are you sure that's not just because I'm relaxing you?"
"I don't know," I replied truthfully.
"Oh." Darren sounded as if he didn't know what to say. "Well, I'll hurry this up and this will all be less confusing for you."
"Oh, thanks, ... I think."
Darren stared even further into my eyes, further than I thought could be possible. It was as if my eyes were the gateway to a beautiful garden that only a certain viewer could behold. It worried me that Darren appeared to be this certain viewer and I was mystified by how calm and content I felt around him.
"Okay, tell me at any point if you feel scared or violated," Darren said gently, taking my hands and clasping them between his.
All was deathly still as his eyes became a shade lighter and a lot more hypnotic. I felt myself slowly drift off as he conveyed warmth to my mind and soothed a deep restlessness in it.
"Hey, stay with me," Darren said. "Don't want to end up in a trance, eh?"
Listening to that musical voice as my mind felt full of a dense, blanket-like fog, I did want to.
Darren rolled his eyes but the movement somehow seemed to slow as his eyes began to blur like the surroundings had when I'd initially focused.
"Tay," he said, squeezing my hands, "please don't doze off."
"Wh-why did you ask me to tell you if I felt scared?" I asked sleepily, in an effort to keep myself awake.
Darren sounded puzzled. "Well, it's supposed to be uncomfortable when a vampire looks this deep into your eyes. It's meant to feel like you can't hide anything from them."
"Oh. I'm just happy."
"Well, I'm nearly done."
"There's no hurry," I said to reassure him.
"It's good just to get these things done."
His eyes turned chocolate and melted every thought in my mind until it was blank and filled with this wonderful calm and then he looked away.
"Hm, that was glorious," I murmured as I finally let myself drift into a natural, dreamless sleep.
I woke up, yawned and smiled at Darren. Something was definitely up. First it had been with me, and now Darren seemed troubled too. I looked at Daniel who was there too and instinctively knew that I didn't love him. He was handsome with the most wonderful heart and beautiful personality but there was no ... pull. I buried my head in my hands and wondered where it had all gone wrong.
"You okay, Taylor?" Daniel asked.
"Just tired," I lied. I didn't have any brilliant ideas of how to break the news to him yet.
Darren seemed to frown deeper.
"Er, Taylor, could I talk to you on your own a minute?"
"Oh, sure," I replied.
"Be quick," Daniel said, ruffling my hair as he left me.
"So what did you want to say?" I asked Darren as the door closed behind us.
"I don't always listen to your thoughts, but I just heard one. Is it true you don't love Daniel anymore?"
I winced before nodding.
"How are you going to tell Daniel? He'll be heartbroken. And I'm confused. I thought you wanted to be with him."
"So did I, but I've been feeling ever so dissatisfied and incomplete around him."
"Incomplete? That's really strange. Are you sure you're feeling okay?"
"No," I said. "I'm very unsure."
"I was quite sure it was the fear but you're not scared anymore, so it can't be that. Do you maybe want to wait a while to tell Daniel so you're sure you don't love him?"
"I don't know. What if he ends up being more in love with me when I'm not similarly attracted to him?"
"That's a fair point. Well, this is all very mysterious. I thought you'd hate me when you saw me today, but you came and gave me a hug and told me you missed me, then you enjoyed something you should have been uncomfortable with and now you don't love the guy you wanted to be in a relationship with. And although you said you feel incomplete, I'm not feeling any lack of satisfaction currently."
"Oh no, did I forget to mention? It disappeared when you arrived."
"That's ... fascinating."
"Tay... you're probably going to hate me for even thinking of suggesting this but it sounds awfully lot like..."
"Like you're in love with me."