"I beg your pardon?"
"Yeah, I know," he said hastily. "I'm probably wrong. It was a crazy idea. Sorry."
"How did you come to that conclusion?"
"It's silly really. I just thought that confused feelings, incompleteness before I came here which disappeared when I did and enjoyment of me looking into the depths of your mind could mean my love for you was no longer unrequited. I'm sorry."
"It makes sense," I murmured.
"I said it makes sense. Well, the lack of incompleteness and the enjoyment thing do, I'm just bemused by the confusion thing."
"Well, if you're really entertaining my theory, your emotions might be adjusting to the change in the object of your affections. I wonder why it did change."
"Yeah, me too. It's not common to suddenly just fall out of love with one person and become attracted to another."
"Would you like to know?" Darren asked in a barely audible whisper.
"How?" I whispered back, scared by his tone.
"I ... could ask."
I frowned. I broke the tense atmosphere by talking aloud. "Who else would know other than some deeper part of me?"
Darren looked at me meaningfully.
"Oh, you'd ask the ‘deeper part of me'."
"But... I don't get it. How can you talk to the ‘deeper part of me'?"
"Like this." He suddenly stared at me so intensely that every thought was shocked out of my head.
"Do you love me?" he asked.
I didn't answer. I was caught and held by his burning gaze. Someone else, using my voice, replied.
"Yes," they said. For some reason, the voice reminded me of a child. A mature child who knew what they were doing, but still a child. A bit like during my after-death phase but without the childish nature of the voice.
Darren reduced the intensity of his stare and I found my thoughts returning.
"Who was that?" I asked. "They were in my head!"
Darren smiled wryly. "It was your subconscious."
"Your subconscious voice. You know things happen subconsciously in your mind - beyond your control - well, that was your subconscious mind talking. It's the part of you involved in dreams."
"That's ... really quite scary. I can't control what I say when I'm like that."
"That's why you are never to allow anyone other than people you completely trust do that. Understand?"
I nodded. I didn't particularly fancy the idea of revealing my innermost thoughts to a stranger.
"Good. Now, we won't do it here, but do you trust me?"
Darren gazed into my eyes, trying to search out a lie that wasn't there. "Completely?"
"So if I drank you until you were within an inch of your life, you'd feel absolutely safe?"
"Don't worry if the answer's no."
"Well, of course I want you to find out why I suddenly love you. Do you have to use that example to check I trust you, though?"
"It had to be quite serious."
"Um, okay, then. I suppose I'd trust you."
"All right. I'll take you back to the apartment. You better go break things off with Daniel."
"Don't worry," came a voice from the doorway. Daniel walked in. "I heard everything."
"Daniel, I'm sorry," I said, cringing.
"No, it's fine." He was strangely calm. "I'd never want to force you into a relationship. I guess sometimes people do fall out of love with each other."
"You're a great guy, really. I think you're really decent with a big heart. You have a wonderful per..."
Daniel raised a hand as a gesture for me to stop. "It's okay, Taylor. It was nice, while it was."
"You're so lovely," I said, sighing. "I wish I could make you happy."
"You did. Thank you." What got to me were his sincerity and the fact that his tone was still warm even though I was probably causing him unimaginable pain.
"Can I take her home with me, then?" Darren asked.
"Oh sure. It's not like a prison here. You can come and go as you please."
"I'll come and visit you from time to time," I said to Daniel.
"I look forward to that."
I gave him a hug as I stood up and left with Darren, feeling annoyingly satisfied with my life. Darren drove me to his apartment and I wondered if I deserved any sort of love with my ingratitude for Daniel.
I walked up the familiar stairs and waited patiently by the familiar door and smelt the familiar, homely smell of Darren's apartment as we walked in and wandered to the living room to sit on the familiar sofa. Part of me was strangely excited, in anticipation. I realised, with disgust, that it was eagerly awaiting the beginning of mine and Darren's relationship.
I noticed that Darren was aligning his fangs with my neck.
"Um, what are you doing?" I asked.
"Oh, I was going to check you trusted me."
"Darren, that's going to be painful," I complained. "Can't you just believe me and get on with it?"
"Oh fine then, but if afterwards you find you hated the experience, it's going to be your entire fault."
Darren raised his head and stared at me with those blazing brown fires and my mind instantly blanked.
"Why have you suddenly fallen in love with me?" he asked, wasting no time.
"The nightmare was a good dream too," said the not-me, mature child part of me. "It felt good to be spending time with you, even though we talked about random stuff. The nightmarish ending was the worry that you would become insane if I didn't love you or that something else terrible would happen. There was a longing not to be parted from you and the beginning, where I forgot who you were was a reflection of the way I feared you were going to leave me."
"But... that sounds like you've loved me for a while. Have you?"
"Naturally. Who could resist you? Didn't you guess with the kisses?"
"Um, no, I didn't actually. But don't you hate me?"
"I don't. There's a bit of outside animosity because of silly things but I've always loved you."
"Well, that's a bit more logical then. Thanks."
Darren blinked and I found my thoughts returning.
"Whoa, that was slightly chilling. But odd. What was I saying about ‘outside animosity'?"
"Well, consciously you hated me, but subconsciously, you obviously didn't. Which is weird and confusing but we got our answer, didn't we?"
I nodded. "And you'll probably be happy to know I love you consciously too."
"Really?" Darren beamed. It was so gratifying to see him happy. A loud hum of pleasure resonated deep within me.
"Yeah. I feel slightly guilty about Daniel, but really, you're like the missing part of me. We were meant to be, I can feel it."
Darren didn't say anything. He was closing his eyes and leaning in to kiss me. I closed my eyes too so I could concentrate solely on the sensation of being kissed by this vampire I'd had such a topsy-turvy relationship with. I felt as if I was soaring through open, cloudless skies with Darren right beside me, giving me the happiness I needed to maintain my flight.
‘I love you,' he thought to me.
‘That's very good because I love you too,' I replied.
I felt warm and fuzzy inside when he chuckled, recognising that I had made him laugh and I would do that a lot more often because he was mine.
‘So, are you glad I didn't go out with Charity?'
‘I must have been mad when I was advising you to date her. You belong to me and I belong to you. No one can change what we have or intrude upon it.'
‘I must admit I considered starting a relationship with her when I dropped you off at the hostel. I thought it might be a good idea to get over you.'
‘I'm very glad you didn't do that! What could compare to this?'
‘Nothing, of course. But I didn't know you wanted me, did I?'
‘Did I mention I was a fool for ever not wanting you?'
‘You didn't actually. But I disagree. You've never been a fool.'
‘Even when I got drunk,' I teased.
‘Well, apart from then. That was extremely daft.'
‘I wonder when I'll see Anthony again...'
Darren laughed. ‘I hope you don't go looking for him. Someone really should tip off the VRS about him for drinking from the same human as another vampire.'
‘But then they might arrest me.'
‘Nah, they'll know you didn't know, especially with your friend to stand up for you.'
‘Do you think he'd do that for me?'
‘Of course he would. He's a good vampire, that Daniel, even if I was jealous when you fancied him.'
‘Yeah, I don't understand how so many guys fancy me.'
‘Me and Daniel just make two, darling.'
‘But what about Roger? And I even held Matt captivated for about two seconds.'
‘Matt?! Really?! That's ... that's a surprise. I didn't think he could fancy anyone. Why do you think he did?'
‘Well, when he kidnapped me, I tried to act as if I was in love with him so he wouldn't make me his - that plan failed - and as I was gazing into his eyes, commenting on the fact that when his eyes changed colour, it was captivating and then, quite astoundingly, he told me he felt like he was falling through a canopy. I was most bemused.'
‘I can imagine.'
‘What happened to him?'
‘Oh, I handed him over to the VRS. He'll have great fun in a prison cell.'
‘You know, I've never seen a vampire police officer.'
‘Well, they stay in disguise. The VRS have the authority to arrest someone, but the real police are everywhere, always watching, always hidden, looking out for criminals. The crime rate is so low that you wonder what happens in a prison cell.'
‘Are you a police officer?'
Darren laughed. ‘No. Thankfully, I don't think vampire police officers get drunk.'
‘Well, in a sense, I'm glad. You don't have a job which involves risking your life. I couldn't bear it if something happened to you. Or... if you had to pull the trigger. You'd go ... cold inside.'
‘Hey, relax, Taylor. I've no intentions of going into any dangerous careers, so you'll be fine. I said I'm going to university, remember?'
‘Oh yeah... and you said I could do my A-levels. Can I still do them?'
‘Yeah sure. Do you want to start this year?'
‘Why not? I was going to anyway.'
‘I'm sorry you probably won't get to do more than that. Maybe you can get a part-time job as a babysitter?'
‘Yeah, part-time will suit me well. I want to spend as much time as I can with you. Hey, maybe I'll even do some different A-levels when you're a teacher.'
‘I thought it was against the law for a teacher to date a student.'
‘Oh, yeah. ... We'd find a way.'
I felt Darren's smile in his mind and I sighed as I allowed the contentment we were both experiencing to roll over me as I felt relaxed, satisfied, and most importantly loved.