I feel a huff of warm breath on my neck and know the boy just sighed. "You don't, Kari, and you need to stop pretending that you do, or else I'll end up believing you." He says in a tired, sad voice. "When you love a person, you'd do anything for them. He explains, stroking my hair gently, "Kari, I would do anything for you. I'd lie, I'd kill... Kari, if it made you happy, I'd happily end my life for you."
I step back, making Clark stumble slightly, my breath caught in my throat. "No." I choke out, "No. You wouldn't. You can't!" I tell him, "How can you even speculate such a thing?" My voice is incredulous, "Clark, that would never, ever make me happy." I say with such force that me looks at me, shocked, but then his expression returns to his usual calm demeanor, and he says the very thing I'm dreading.
"We all surprise ourselves sometimes."
He breaks the eye contact we had, leaving me standing in front of him, my mouth open, terrified of myself, and of what he thinks of me. I shake my head, "No..." I murmur quietly, more to myself than to him. I look at him, desperate to get him to take back those words. Those words that mean so much to me. For what seems like the hundreth time tonight, I feel tears prick my eyes. I reach out for his hand, and he takes it, drawing me in and leaning down to me. I close my eyes, but can't help but wonder what would happen if he kissed me. Would it count as my kiss or his? Practically answering my question, he brushes my fringe away from my face and kisses me softly but with conviction in the centre of my forehead. "What would happen? If I kissed you?" I ask, my voice shaking slightly. He rolls his head forward so our foreheads are resting together.
"Everything would happen." He says, staring deeply into my multicoloured eyes, now brimming with tears, "I would cease to exist. My existance would never happen. I wouldn't even be a memory." He says, reaching up to take my face in his hands. "Because you don't love me the way you love him."
"Him?" I ask quickly. What's he talking about? He's practically the only boy I know. Okay, I've seen others out of my bedroom window, but I've never spoken to any boys except for him and Gared.
"The boy you'll fall in love with." He says with certainty, still searching my eyes.
"How do you know who I'll fall in love with?" I ask, yearning for the truth.
"I have to know. It's my job."
"Your job? Clark, what are you talking about? Who will I fall in love with?" I ask, my desperation growing inside me like a seed had been planted ages ago, and had only just started to grow. And it was growing too quickly for me to keep up with.
"To protect you from yourself. And I can't say, but it's not me." He says, his lips brush down my face and stop right next to my own. Only what he told me about him disappearing prevents me meeting his kiss.
He stays like that for what seems like forever, and then pulls away, leaving my cheek feeling cold. Then he says something that surprises me.
"When shall we go in?" He gestures to the hall which, although I didn't realise, is practically right at the end of the alley.
"B-But you're hurt. And bleeding." I say, stammering.
"I can clean up inside. Besides, I wouldn't want my Princess missing her ball." I stare at him, not knowing what to say. He holds out his arm for me to place mine on top, and I hesitate only a moment before I do. We walk slowly. I'd kicked off my other shoe, but he had picked it up and placed it in my small bag, claiming that we might need it. I tread carefully, not wanting to cut my bare feet on the tarmac that's bound to have some broken glass somewhere. After about five minutes of wandering around the alleys, following the music, we come into the open, and head towards the large hall that had been decorated to look like a castle. Pictures were being taken against the outside wall, that had also been painted to resemble a balcony overlooking a moonlit lake.
I want to avoid the picture queue as much as possible, but Clark steers me around, and we join the end of the queue. Several people turn and stare at us, muttering in lowered voices, but while I listen intently, Clark turns to me and tries to fix my hair again. Unsucessfully. I see Gared further down the queue, his date turning to glare at me. He turns around too, and I smile softly when I see his black eye. I didn't even know I'd hit his eye. Clark leans down and plants a kiss on my cheek, and several gasps are drawn from the queue. I'm tempted to run, but Clark's hold on my arm keeps me where I am.
After enduring several more minutes of whispering and staring, we stand together in front of the painted balcony. I stand waiting while Clark whispers something to the photographer. He nods, and Clark joins me, standing slightly behind me. I look at him, but he's grinning at the camera. Suspicious, I smile too, and the cameraman counts down from three. At one, Clark takes hold of me, and sweeps me into his arms. I yelp in surprise as he kisses my neck and the cameraman clicks the shutter. Clark laughs and carries me towards the entrance, my legs hanging over his arm, and my hands linked behind his neck. I giggle for the first time in my life, the tension I felt in the line for photos evaporating as I rest my head on Clarke's shoulder.