page 22

After I got myself the coffee I so desired I spent the next few hours physically handing out my resumé at various businesses, hoping that I would hear back from any one of them.

Eventually I took a breather in the park across from my apartment, reading a couple more chapters of Pride and Prejudice before heading to my bus stop.

When I reached the studio I was surprised to see a line of tiny pumpkins strung along the outside, as well as a few black and orange streamers. 

It hit me after a while. Halloween. 

I walked in with a sigh, knowing full well that I'd have to turn away any kids from my building that came to my door. 

When I saw Raphael, though, I burst out laughing.

He had a pair of long, floppy white bunny ears protruding from his hair and a fake tail on over his shirt and shorts. When he turned to look at me I could see that whiskers had been drawn on his face with black face paint, and I had another fit of laughter.

Sutton was severely unamused.

"If you keep laughing I'll make you run through the routine until you wear a hole through the floor." he said, glowering.

"I...just...I..." I was trying to talk between laughing, but it wasn't working, "You...rabbit..."

I doubled over with laughter, eventually taking a deep breath to calm myself and straightening up.

And then I saw him again and had to hold back my guffaws.

"I'm doing this to fulfill a promise." he muttered, "And it involves some very young children who would be very disappointed if I was too busy being laughed at to do my work."

I walked over, standing on my toes to touch the ears. He stiffened imperceptibly. 

"They're cute, sunshine." I laughed, "But tell me, who are these mystery kids? Your victims?"

He rolled his eyes.

"I own a dance school. I was paying the younger classes a visit when this happened. They made me swear I'd keep it on the entire day."

"I don't even know them and I already love them!" I exclaimed, beaming.

Raphael sighed, gesturing for me to get a move on.

"Get dressed."

"Somebunny feews gwumpy." I taunted in a baby voice, getting myself a death glare for it, "Okay, okay, I'm going!"


"Abromovich, just because you got out of hospital doesn't mean I'm going to go easy on you. Straighten that leg. Straighter."

I was trying to pay attention, I really was, but the ears kept me from taking him seriously. 

Raphael took hold of my knee and straightened my leg for me. That got me paying attention.

"Now," he said, "Posture."

We ran through the part again, but my mind was far from focused.

He smelled like a mixture of the new leather in his car and sandalwood, and it was driving me crazy. 

But just then I remembered just how important Swan Lake was for me, and I regained my concentration. I could ignore his scent, our proximity and the way he left a trail of electricity across my skin when I thought of how close I was to realizing my dreams.

When we finished I looked at him expectantly.

"How was that?"

"Meh," he shrugged, "Not bad, but not amazing."

I looked at him with annoyance, and, walking towards my water bottle, discreetly yanked his tail.

I glanced back over my shoulder and only had time to squeal when I realized he was running at me,  my legs taking a split-second to start moving.

"You can run but you can't hide, Abromovich!" he called, making my mischievous expression deepen.

I jumped around like a gazelle, maneuvering away from him and running into the hallway, ducking into another room. 

He followed, and I sped up only for his arms to hook around my waist and tackle me to the mats on the ground. I rolled over so that I was facing him, trying to kick him off to make my escape.

I moved too much for him to pin me down and he was too strong for me to push off so we ended up tussling, trying to see who would give out first.

We were both laughing our heads off so there wasn't really a clear winner, but then I made the mistake of putting weight on my side and let out a cry of pain.

Raphael was instantly serious. His ears had fallen off. 

"What's wrong?"

"It's nothing." I insisted, trying to get up.

He didn't let me move, and we had a bit of a stare off. I lost, and, sighing, rolled up the side of my tank.

"It looks a lot worse than it feels."

Sutton looked at the purple clouds against my pale skin and then into my eyes. His fingers brushed against the bruising and he moved back off of me.

I sat up, letting my shirt fall back over my skin. 

His expression was strange. 

"I...hurt you." he half-whispered, before getting up and leaving, a hand running through his hair.

I got up and considered following him, but something told me he would be better off alone.

My heart was still pounding in my ears and my breathing was erratic, and I found I could do no more than sit in the corner of the room and draw my knees in towards myself. 

 What was happening to him?

 What was happening to me?

The End

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