Author’s note: this chapter deals with a sensitive subject.
Faceless shadows over me, magic spinning towards me, heaviness, can’t breathe, pain, death, death, my death…!!!
I woke up with a start, gasping for air, relieved to feel oxygen going into my lungs. I spun out of bed and pulled myself into a fighting stance, prepared to fight the shadows but no enemies were to be seen. I slowly lowered my hands, looking around, still finding it a bit difficult to breathe. A nightmare. It had been a nightmare.
I looked down at Max who came over to sit at my feet, staring up at me with curious eyes. “Bad dream, that’s all,” I whispered, bending down to scoop him into my arms. He purred happily as I scratched his head but then made whining sounds as I took him out. “We made a deal. The bedroom belongs to me and Davy!” I set him outside the door and pointed. He whined again but went off into the darkness.
I closed the door then returned to the bed, sliding in next to Davy’s sleeping form. She rolled over and her eyes opened partially. “Zaid?” she breathed.
“Mr. Fluffy knocked open the door,” I whispered, stroking her hair. “Go back to sleep.”
“Dunno why you won’t let him in,” she yawned, snuggling against me. “I don’t mind.”
You would if you knew he was Max, I thought but just kissed her head and held her until she fell back asleep. It took me a while longer to get back to sleep since I worried more about the nightmare than I probably should have. But it felt so real and so intense, unlike most dreams and nightmares I’d had before… it really felt so intense to the point of me thinking I should talk to Grams about it.
“Nightmare magic?” Grams asked the next day when I called her. “It’s possible. They wouldn’t need to know your location. Or your name, really, though your name would help–except it might be done with just your first name.”
I slumped back a bit, rubbing my forehead. “So they know I haven’t changed my first name now, then?” I moved over to one of the windows and looked out, feeling like someone might be there. Nobody was outside except for a student on his bike pedaling pretty fast. “What if I keep having these nightmares? Grams, it felt so real. I couldn’t breathe. When I woke up I felt so certain that the shadowy figures would be there.”
“I’ll look into it. Let me know if you have any nightmares tonight,” she said and I promised her I would. “By the way, how’s married life treating you?”
“Oh, wonderful! We’ve gotten settled into the house pretty well. There’s not much room at all. I had to send all my sim fu training stuff back to Midnight Hollow, but it’s a nice house.” I went around checking all the windows and making sure they were locked, feeling very unsafe. “One of the only places in our budget that allowed cats.”
“I’m glad Max is still with you,” Grams said.
“Me too,” I confessed. “I feel a lot safer with him around. Even if he does knock over glasses full of water all the time. He’s really a brat when he’s in cat form.”
Grams laughed at that. “Yes, yes he is. It must be hard on him though, being a cat more than human. He always preferred being human.”
“Did he?” I went to the kitchen area and began hunting for some snacks. “I guess I figured since he was originally a cat he didn’t mind being a cat.”
“He definitely prefers human. He told me a couple years ago that if I could find a spell to make him human all the time and no longer immortal, he’d take it.”
I straightened up in shock. “Max asked for that?” I whispered, looking at the stairs since he was upstairs in his cat bed, sound asleep. As far as I knew at least. “He–he wanted…? Why? Did he say?”
“No, he didn’t. I have my suspicions though. And before you ask, I’m not telling you. If Max wants to talk about his personal life he will.”
I sighed. “Knowing Max he’ll either feel like everyone should have a vested interest in his life or nobody should. Did you find spells for that? I mean, are you looking?”
“I didn’t look too much into it. Honestly, it’d be more risky than anything. He’s always so pumped full of magic doing anything more could hurt him more than help. I better go, dear. I have a potion brewing I need to get to and my cookies need to come out of the oven soon. I’ll mail you a box of them. Love you.”
“Love you too, Grams,” I said then hung up my phone, tossing it onto the counter. Max wanted to become human permanently? Not a cat? How strange… he always seemed so proud of being a cat. I wondered if he’d tell me, if I asked. Then again he never told me in the first place he had asked Grams for such a thing so maybe he wouldn’t.
I returned to my hunt for snacks then went to flop on the couch, glad I didn’t have anything else to do today. Day off from work and no class. The only thing that could make it better was if Davy had the day off too. We were still getting used to our new home. It had only been about two weeks since our wedding so everything still felt extremely new and strange. It didn’t help we were in a new house too, having moved in just a week before and finally getting pretty much everything unpacked yesterday. Mostly since we didn’t have much at all. We hadn’t received many gifts due to the late notice–plus the fact our parents were paying for our college educations. Still, my sisters had gone in for some really nice linen and her cousin gave us a nice set of dishes. Everyone else gave us money–which we planned to use to buy baby stuff.
Max came down the stairs and jumped up onto my lap, headbutting my hand and demanding attention. I rubbed behind his ears, telling him he should become human so we could talk. He bit my hand playfully then rolled onto his back, wanting belly rubs. “For someone who wants to be human permanently you sure do seem to enjoy being a cat,” I said without thinking.
Max stiffened and then he hopped off my lap, tail sticking up, fur poofed out a bit. He licked his paw for a moment then turned human, not bothering to worry about his clothes. I knew he could shift with clothes but sometimes he didn’t seem to care. I went through a period of not caring but the past year I disliked him being naked because of… well, I didn’t really understand why it made me feel awkward. I looked away from his bare body and hoped Davy didn’t get off work early to come home and find a naked Max sitting next to me on the couch.
“You talked to Gretchen,” he stated.
“I, uh, I did,” I said and he wanted to know how long I knew. “Uh. Like. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes?”
Max laughed at that. “You’re bad at hiding things from me.”
“I guess I am,” I said, feeling a bit sheepish. “Okay so now it’s all out in the open so you can tell me–what the heck is it about? Wanting to be human forever?”
He looked down, scratching a small scab on his leg, making unhappy sounds. “I’ve spent a long, long time like this. I just thought it’d be nice if I could finally just stay in one form.”
“You don’t like being a shifter?”
He drew his legs up, purposely not looking at me. “I dunno. S’all right I guess. Did you ask her about the nightmares?”
“You’re changing the subject,” I accused. “But yeah, she’s looking into it.” I leaned back, wishing I had something to put my feet up on. Maybe we’d have to look into getting a foot-thingie-ottoman. “It’s been three years. ‘Three to five years’,” I quoted, “that’s what Grams said. Depending on their resources. Maybe my time’s up. That nightmare wasn’t just any nightmare.” I touched my throat, shuddering as if I could feel that deathlike touch once more. My body then jolted as Max put a hand on my leg. “What do I do?” I looked at him, beginning to feel overwhelmed at the idea of my time being up. I had known the possibility of it being just three years but I couldn’t help but hope it’d be more like five.
“Go back to fighting I guess.” Max moved his hand and took mine, pulling it closer to him as he played with my wedding ring. “Whatcha gonna tell the missus?”
I snatched my hand away, readjusting the ring. “I don’t know. Watcher. What am I supposed to say?”
“You’ve been with her almost a year, dating-wise…” Max cocked his head to one side. “You never even mentioned or hinted to any of this?”
“I’m a friggin’ moron, I know!” I moaned, covering my face. “Maybe I won’t have to say anything. Maybe the nightmare’s just a really weird nightmare and maybe–maybe…” I let out an aggravated growl then flopped over the arm of the couch. “If wishes were fishes.”
“Then all but one of my dreams would come true,” Max sighed happily. I gave him a look and he grinned. “What? Fish yummy. Most my wishes are about fishes. Or catnip. You should grow catnip again.”
“Last time I tried to grow catnip–which you had requested of me promising it’d be fine–I woke up in the middle of the night to find the flowerpot shattered and you rolling around in the dirt in a drugged-up state.” I leaned in very close. “You are never getting catnip from me again.”
He stared hard into my eyes for a few seconds then reached up, tapping my nose. “Boop.” I just blinked, raising one eyebrow. “Dang. I thought you’d get annoyed. Fine, fine, no catnip. Do you need to talk about anything?” I shrugged to which he took to mean no, and turned back into a cat. I pulled him onto my lap and switched the TV on, petting Max and thinking about what I might say to Davy. What I should say. How much to divulge.
How could I tell my wife and future mother of my child that powerful beings were hunting me down for variety of horrible reasons including the destruction of magic? Or… maybe more? Since sometimes I got the feeling there was something more than just the downfall. Maybe something to do with the barrier. I didn’t know. All I knew, really, was that sooner or later they were gonna start coming after me again and now I had a lot more to protect than ever before.
Clay visited a couple days later, having just gotten back from a month-long trip to Sunlit Tides. He felt so bad he hadn’t been able to get to the wedding but I assured him it didn’t bug me since the wedding had happened so quickly, and pointed out both my brother and Trysh had been unable to make it either (since Trysh now went to college in France including summer courses). Clay had met Davy once or twice and they got along pretty well, but Clay and Noah didn’t really seem to think much of one another though since Noah had been my best man, Clay really seemed a bit ‘blech’ about him.
But regardless we all had a really good time. Clay, Noah, and I all got pretty drunk while Davy looked wistfully at the beer we went through. Eventually she left us to our ‘boy’s night in’ and we had a blast talking about the women in our lives. Noah’s new girlfriend, the local girl Clay had spent three weeks out of his month’s trip in bed with, and me about Davy. Of course Clay began asking about the sudden change in my relationship status.
“Ishee pregnant?” he slurred out.
“I have nooo idea wha’ yer talkin’ about,” I managed to say, not telling the truth, not lying.
“Guess we’ll know’n a few months,” Noah said, raising his bottle of beer and Clay snapped his fingers in amusement. “Come on, Zaid. In one and a half yearshiz gonna be the twenty-century… third… twenty-third century so things are more as…asc… axpecible… more okay now than they were.”
“Doesn’t feel like it,” I mumbled, reaching for some potato chips. Both my friends looked at me, wanting to know what I meant. I tossed the chips in my mouth then washed them down with a drink from the bottle. “Juss… like how things hadvent… adn… have not changed since like the 1990s…?” I squinted at the wall. “Yahhh, the 1990s…”
Noah smacked my back. “Buddy you’re dro sunk and… annnnnd… things… have shanged.”
“What?!” I demanded, getting up and waving the bottle around. “Whatas changed? Like–like–really? What? Tlel me… wazzo different? Male–male preggens? And more fool-fishing… fool… eff…ishhing..t… cars better wi’ fuel. B’what else? Two hunnred years’ago they thought of clying fars fying… flying cars and–and– colonies on d’moon. But wha do we have?” I let my arms drop down. “S’a time bubble.”
“Yer crazy, dude,” Clay laughed. “Yer sooo drunk yer making… time… shtuff… time…” He yawned again as he moved to the couch and flopped down. “‘Maginin’ shit that’s… not… not….” He trailed off and began snoring.
Noah turned to me and flung an arm over my shoulder. “I think time for sleepybie.” He pat my head and steered me to the stairs. “Night-night, boy.”
I stumbled up the stairs, wanting to protest, wanting to point out more about the time bubble. To make them see. To make them understand. But I just found myself falling into bed next to Davy and kissing her until I passed out.
I woke up very early with a raging headache, the kind I hadn’t felt in a while. I rolled over, rubbing my temples as I groaned and tried not to vomit. “Could you bring the toilet to me?” I asked, knowing Davy had woken up already. No response, though. I sat up, removing my hands from eyes and seeing her sitting up in bed, hugging her knees to her chest, her eyes a bit puffy and red from crying. “Honey?” I tried to focus past my hangover though it proved to be more difficult than I thought. “Wh–what happened?”
“I can’t do it,” she sniffled into her arms.
For a second I felt a stab of fear that she meant us. Our marriage. “I love you,” I said, rather hopefully.
Davy lifted her head a bit, a slight smile twitching at the corner of her lips. I love you too, Zaid. But I can’t do it. I heard you guys talking last night, before–before you came up.”
“What did he say?” I asked, trying to remember but things were rather fuzzy.
“That in a few months everyone will know,” she said but I couldn’t remember anything like that being said. “He’s right. Everyone will know. Stop looking confused… oh. You don’t remember?” she asked and I shook my head then cried out in pain. Davy went into the bathroom, returning with a cold, damp washcloth and two asprin tablets in her hands. “Clay asked if you married me because I was pregnant. You said you didn’t know what he was talking about, and Noah said in a few months everyone will know anyway.” She handed me a half-empty bottle of water so I could take the headache medicine. “And he’s right.”
“Noah’s full of it,” I mumbled as I swigged down all the water.
“No he’s not!” she hissed out. “When I have the baby early everyone will know, or at least be able to guess. You may be bad at math but even you can see that seven and a half is a smaller number than nine!” I made a face as I rubbed the back of my neck with the damp cloth. “My mom is going to be furious–“
“So what?” I demanded, getting up carefully. “I know you love your family but if they’re going to be upset that you had sex before marriage–“
“Zaid!” she cut me off, arms tight against her chest. “You love your family too, right? You’d do anything to make them happy? And do your best to avoid upsetting them or… doing things to drive them apart from you?”
She turned away from me, bending forward a bit. “I know my family is a bit old-fashioned but I love them so much and this will… hurt them so much. That’s why we got married, To prevent… gossip. But it won’t prevent it. We’re so stupid. I’m so stupid.” She began crying again and I flinched at the loudness. “My Nana is gonna have a heart attack. She’s going to die. I’m going to kill my Nana.”
I went over and wrapped my arms around her. “Your Nana won’t have a heart attack just because you have a baby seven and a half months after your wedding,” I said, kissing the back of her neck.
“You don’t understand! She’s the one paying for most my law degree!” Davy wrenched away sending a shock of pain through my head. “If she finds out, she’ll cut it off and I can’t do this without her financial support!”
I pushed my hair back, sucking on my teeth at the suspicion of what she really meant. “So… you’re thinking…?”
“I want to get rid of it.”
Yeah. Now I turned away from her, pacing over to the dresser and pressing my hands down on the surface. Of course this has to be talked about now with my headache. “You want an abortion.”
“I won’t get one if you don’t want me to,” she whispered, voice cracking as she spoke. “But my parents will be so mad, my Nana will be so mad, and I won’t be able to finish law school.” As she spoke her voice cracked more and more until she finished with crying into her hands once again. “It’s b-b-been my d-d-dream since I w-was a little gii-ii-irrl!”
I went back to her, hugging her against my chest, stroking her hair and trying to calm her down. I figured Noah and Clay were still sound asleep but I wasn’t sure if her crying would wake them up and I felt certain she didn’t want them to hear any of this. “It’ll be okay. Shhh, hon, it’ll be okay. Why don’t you call in sick today from work and relax. I’ll–I’ll see if later Noah can take Clay around town and you and I can talk more.”
Davy hugged me tightly then went over to the bed, curling into a little ball. I wandered into the bathroom to splash my face. I didn’t think I could even look at my friends but I had to. I had to pretend things were okay. So I went downstairs and woke up my friends, offering to take them out for breakfast. We feasted at a breakfast diner and then headed back to the house for quick showers. Afterwards I asked Noah if he could show Clay around, stating that Davy didn’t feel well and I needed to stay with her for a while to make sure she didn’t need to go to the hospital.
“Morning sickness?” Clay asked and I never wanted more to sock him in the face.
“Probably just a stomach bug,” I said through slightly gritted teeth. “Sorry guys, maybe tonight we can go to the movies or something.”
I went out to get Davy’s favorite type of pizza as well as a a roasted chicken sandwich and French fries in case she didn’t want the pizza. But she gladly accepted the pizza and wolfed down about half of it. I smiled a bit, remembering Dad mentioning once that Pa had craved pizza most the pregnancies he went through. Then my smile faded. “So. I guess we need to talk about–about… about…”
“I meant what I said. If you want me to keep the baby I will,” she said, tearing off bits of the pizza crust.
“It’s not as easy as that,” I said, crossing my legs and arms, feeling a bit better without the headache and with some food in me. “If I say… if I say keep the baby, I’ll feel like I’m pushing you into something you don’t want and I do not want to be that sort of person. But if I say to go ahead with–with the abortion then…” I breathed in deeply, needing to say it. “I don’t like the idea of getting rid of the baby. But…” But I know I can’t express my true feelings on this because saying no would be like telling her she’s not important and her career and dreams don’t matter, I thought, wanting with all my heart to say I wanted to keep the baby. “I also love you and want you to be happy–want us to be happy.” I reached down to take her hand. “We’re young. We have our whole lives ahead of us.” It hurt so much to say. I didn’t want to say this but what else could I do? It really didn’t matter what I felt in this situation because it would be her future on the line more than mine, if her college money was taken away. “And loads of time to have children.”
Davy leaned against me, playing with my fingers. “But you want to keep this baby. It’s why you married me–“
“Reaper!” I exclaimed, twisting to look at her. “Babe. I married you because I love you.” I cupped her face in my hands and kissed her gently. “I love you. The baby just made things happen quicker than I expected but it doesn’t change that one day we would have married. Wouldn’t we? You–you married me out of love more than the baby, didn’t you?”
She kept her eyes on mine the slowly nodded. “Yes. I love you.”
I rubbed my thumb down her cheek, giving her a sad smile. “I know becoming a lawyer is your dream. So… so…” She nodded, knowing what I didn’t say. I gave her another kiss then said, “But I think we should give this a few more days to really think about it and not make a snap judgement decision.”
“Like getting married,” she mumbled then her eyes went big and her hands flew to her mouth. “No! I didn’t mean it like that–“
“It’s okay, I understand,” I said and pulled her into my lap to kiss her. “Everything will be okay.” Because it had to be. It had to be. Even though I really didn’t want her to get an abortion, I knew it’s what she wanted and knew it would relieve a lot of stress in our lives. Besides, if I said ‘no’ then either she’d do it anyway or else not do it and hate me completely when she had to drop out of college because no way we could pay for her to continue getting a law degree and she already had as many scholarships as she could get. I’d just think of it as a miscarriage, and then Davy and I could live our lives together, grow as husband and wife, and one day start a proper family together.
The next few days were very tense especially with Clay staying with us but once he left things remained just as stressful as before. Davina and I talked a lot and we kept coming to the same decision which was for her to get an abortion. She finally did. We went to a clinic, neither of us really in the moment. I stayed with her until she went to sleep and then left the room. I did not want to be in the room while they… did that. But once they were finished, I returned to her side and kissed her cheeks the moment her eyes opened. She asked if everything went well and after I said it did, she stopped talking.
She didn’t talk the rest of the day. No matter what I said or asked, she only gave me noncommittal noises in return. We were able to go home that night and she just curled up in bed, crying into her pillow. She took up most the bed so that night I slept on the floor next to the bed, wishing she’d talk to me. Max stayed in the room that night, sleeping next to me. I held onto him and after Davy fell asleep I cried into his fur. He licked my face over and over until it started hurting but I didn’t bother stopping him, I just let him continue to lick me until I drifted to sleep.
“……” A soft sound I barely heard woke me up in the morning.
“Mmm?” I asked, not sure why I wasn’t on the bed for a few seconds.
“Don’t hate me,” Davy said.
I sat up, looking at her. She lay on her side facing me, face streaked with tears. I reached out, gently pushing back a few wisps of hair from her face. “I don’t hate you.”
“I hate me.”
I climbed into bed to hold onto her as tightly as I dared which, considering her procedure from the previous day, wasn’t very tight. “I don’t. You shouldn’t hate yourself.”
“I feel selfish,” she sniffled.
“You’re not selfish. There… there just wasn’t any… easy outcome. A baby–would have… added so much stress to our lives. And financially we couldn’t have been able to provide well. Your family would have been so mad. Your Nana would have taken away the college payments and you’d have to drop out. We’d have to juggle my college classes and your job and babysitting and taking care of–“
“Stop,” she cried and I fell silent. “Your family would have helped. They’re better than mine.”
“They’re not better. Just different. And our child would have been our responsibility, not theirs.” I thought back to Lumie’s reasons for not keeping the baby and it became difficult not to cry. Now we had both lost babies, in different ways. “I do love you.”
“You should hate me.”
“No.” I pressed my lips gently against her forehead. “I love you. And we made the decision together. Not just you.”
Davy stayed silent for a bit then slid onto the bed. I cuddled up against her, careful of where I put my hands in case I hurt her accidentally. “You’ll probably tell me I shouldn’t be crying. You haven’t cried.”
“I did cry, last night. I’m just glad Mr. Fluffy didn’t claw me up for soaking him in my tears,” I mumbled into the back of her head. “And you should cry if you have to. Cry as much and as long as you need, darling. It’s a very emotional ordeal.”
“You… won’t think… less of me…? I mean, I’m the one who–who wanted…”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re the one who wanted to do this in the first place, we talked about it together, we came to the decision. And just because we came to this particular decision doesn’t–doesn’t make it an easy, emotionless one. I know you,” I said, propping myself up a bit to look down at her face. “I’d be very surprised if you didn’t cry.”
She rolled back over and began weeping into my chest. I just wrapped my arms around her, trying but being unable to stop the few tears that did trickle down my cheeks. Soon we were both crying and holding onto each other as if we were trying not to drown.