Over the weekend it seemed that Rhyley put the past behind him, meaning that on Monday morning he felt ready to try again with Sandra. He learnt from a fellow A2 Chemistry student that Sandra’s second period lesson that day was Maths, and so, rather than to intrude on the silence of the library by starting a conversation with her there, he decided to try to catch her outside the building in which Maths was taught and talk to her over break.
Fate seemed to still want the pair to be together, as Rhyley arrived outside just as Sandra was leaving the building. He was quite relieved that Roger Steelfang wasn’t with her - he had feared that he and Sandra did the same A2’s and were inseparable.
“Hey,” Sandra,” he said as they approached each other, her unaware of it.
Sandra stopped, looking at Rhyley. She blinked, surprised.
“Rhyley...” She sounded as if she didn’t know herself whether she was happy or unhappy to be greeted by him like this.
“I’m sorry about what I said,” he told her.
“Me too,” she rushed to say. “It was just ... too much, you know? But I was still out of line. I saw Roger in wolf form on Saturday. I believe that we’re soulmates.”
“Yeah. Listen, I wanted to ... to try again, Sandra. Start afresh. D’you want to come to the common room with me and ... chat?”
Sandra smiled shyly.
“Why not? It’s only chatting”
Rhyley nodded again.
“I don’t make out with a girl I’ve just met, I promise.”
He intended it quite seriously, wondering if Steelfang had tried to make Sandra afraid of him, but Sandra just chuckled.
“I’ll take your word for it,” she said. She pulled out her phone. “I’m just going to text Roger to let him know where I’ll be.”
Embarrassed, Rhyley said, “Oh, could you tell him to go somewhere else?”
Sandra shot him a confused look.
“Well, you saw how much he doesn’t like me,” he explained.
“Oh, okay...” Sandra frowned slightly but she typed a text, sent it and put her phone away. “Let’s go then.”
So off they walked to the common room.
“Did you have a good weekend?” Rhyley asked as they walked. It was weird trying to have a normal conversation with his known soulmate, especially since he had never before forgiven a girl for insulting him like Sandra had, and since last Monday’s conversation would have put him off her completely. But it was sort of nice in a way too, because it wasn’t that dissimilar from talking to a friend.
“Oh, well, I didn’t really get up to much but yeah. You?”
Sandra’s receptiveness was surprising Rhyley, though he was grateful for it too.
“Not too bad. I got to a new level on COD.”
“Nazi zombies, right? Well done.”
Rhyley felt embarrassed. It wasn’t really an achievement, and he wasn’t altogether sure why he had told Sandra about it. All the same he muttered a “Thanks”.
“Where did Roger shift?” he wondered suddenly, though it was useful for changing the subject.
“My back garden.” Sandra’s gaze unfocused slightly. “He was gorgeous.”
Rhyley felt awkward.
“Oh... that’s good.”
Sandra bit her lip, seeming to come back to the present.
“Sorry, I didn’t have to tell you that.”
“No, it’s... fine.”
“Do you have a favourite place to shift?” she asked.
“No, not really. Anywhere’s good for me as long as there’s open ground to run about on.”
“I think being a wolf would be amazing.”
“You feel really free.”
“Will I get to see you in wolf form one day?”
Rhyley looked down, it occurring to him that her question could be suggestive and seductive in other circumstances. He was reminded of her chastity, and he remembered that he wanted to ask about that at some point.
“I’m sure you will.”
“It’s still ... difficult to get my head around. I mean, everything in the world has seemed so normal up till now. And suddenly, wham, out of the blue, there are werewolves and Roger’s one, and I have a soulmate. Can you believe it?”
Rhyley shrugged, looking up at her.
“You have to.”
“I wonder how soulmates are ... chosen,” she murmured.
“No one knows but Fate. Some things ... you just have to accept. Otherwise you’d be wandering in circles all day long and not getting anywhere in your life.”
“I guess you’re right.”
Rhyley nodded as well.
The rest of the walk to the common room was silent. When they got there, Rhyley walked to the kitchenette.
“You want a drink?” he asked her.
“Oh, er, tea please.”
Rhyley made her a tea and made himself a coffee with milk. He led her to another room with sofas and tea tables. He chose a sofa to sit down on and Sandra sat beside him. There was one other person in the room: a boy from the year below who appeared to be taking a nap on another sofa, iPod earphones plugged in. Everyone else would be enjoying break elsewhere or working in the library. Rhyley accounted this privacy to Fate.
“So why are you chaste?” Rhyley asked, the question whose answer he had been quite keen to learn (with the hope, admittedly, of finding a way to change her mind).
Sandra looked at Rhyley and frowned, as if guessing that he was interested as a person who found it strange more than anything else.
“I ... I wanted to save myself for the person I loved enough to marry.” As she continued explaining, she looked away from him, to focus her thoughts and give a reason that made sense, it seemed - or maybe she was embarrassed to tell him, or else afraid that he still wouldn’t understand. “... I wanted to make it special; I never understood how people could do it casually: it seemed ... such a big thing, and so ... intimate.” She blushed and looked down at the floor. “I don’t think I quite realised how awkward it might make things,” she murmured.
Rhyley watched her, thinking. He had never himself attributed the same sort of importance to sex that Sandra seemed to. It was ... fun; ... it was natural.
“Did you never feel ... desire?” he asked, confused.
“Oh, I did,” she confessed. “I do. But...” Her frown deepened. “I needed something sacred. This world... it really gets to me sometimes. The hatred, the violence... The shallowness. I wanted a love with meaning. And I didn’t want to have to worry that a guy had just married me for my looks or my body. I thought ... that the chastity could help me prove that, as well.”
Well, how did you argue with that?
“Isn’t ... physical attraction a part of it all?” Rhyley wondered. “Like desire, you find girls hot - or guys hot in your case - and you want to ... do it with them. You don’t always think about love: it’s lust, it’s instinct; there’s probably some justification within the theory of survival of the fittest.”
Sandra looked uncomfortable.
“I don’t want lust. I want love.”
“Well... I guess it’s good you have a soulmate then.”
Sandra’s expression turned wistful.
“Is it? How do I know that Fate is any more profound than humanity? How do I know that it wanted to give me love, the sort of love I dream about?”
Rhyley was nonplussed. This girl was ... deep, deeper than any other girl he had encountered in his life. She left him so confused because of her difference and caused his mind to wonder in a way that it had never wondered before and in a way which he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted it to wonder. The way he saw things was simple: but her way? It was complex, unique ... and painful. It was like Sandra had tried to question the heart of a relationship. And the fact that she had admitted she liked desire and was trying to resist it anyway? Could he cope with trying to understand a girl like that?
Sandra was looking as pained as Rhyley thought her thoughts must make her.
“You look ... like you don’t think this will work at all,” she said quietly.
“To be honest,” Rhyley murmured, “I don’t.”
“Oh,” Sandra whispered. She slowly stood up, picking her tea up. “I ... I need to go then. Just ... for a while. If ... if you want to talk to me again, ... well, I guess you’ll just have to try to find me.” She walked out, looking like she was suppressing tears.
Oh heck. What on earth did he do now?