The rest of February passed in a flash. I felt kinda adrift in a sea of confusion. Kiley. Romance. Casimir. The green-eyed girl I felt was my half-sister. And Eli, as something happened on my way back to the dorm after my midnight dip with Kiley. Halfway to my dorm I came across Eli and someone arguing pretty fervently. I hid in the shadows and didn’t see either of them, just recognized Eli’s voice (though not the guy he was arguing with). The other guy sounded very angry and almost threatening. Eli sounded stressed out. Then Eli said something about looking into it before storming off to his dorm. I tried to see who he had been talking about but by the time I looked around the corner the guy had disappeared.
So my mind occasionally wandered to that. To Casimir’s weird bloody night. The girl. But mostly stayed on Kiley and Romance. The kiss with Kiley had been amazing but I didn’t really have feelings for her. When I decided to ask Romance to the spring dance I realized I did have feelings for her. I liked her–a lot. How had I not guessed before my feelings for her? I figured Kiley was right: in some ways I was pretty dense.
But I asked Romance. Nervously. Hands twisting the hem of my shirt, my eyes down on the ground. On her shoes. She wore white mary-janes most the time. Combined with her dress and sweater, she seemed like she stepped out of an old-fashioned photo or something. Even her attitude and the way she talked seemed like it didn’t belong in this era.
“The dance?” she inquired and I finally glanced up at her face. “I thought you would be going with Kiley.”
I swallowed. Had Kiley told Romance about our kiss? No one in the school indicated they knew so I figured she hadn’t told anyone. “No. I–I want to… I mean, I’d like to go with you. If you don’t want to…?”
She smiled the kind of smile that pierced my heart. “I don’t know if I can.”
“If you’re going with someone else–“
“It’s not that.” She brushed some hair away from her cheek and turned a little away from me, looking at the picture on the wall. “I’d like to go with you. However I don’t want to lead you on. I’m not really… looking for a relationship of any kind.”
Oh. At least it wasn’t someone else. Unless she was lying right now, though she didn’t seem like it. “All right. Um. Okay cool. I–uh–sorry for bothering you.”
She stared at me with dull eyes, a faint smile still on her face. It broke my heart. “You didn’t bother me at all. I just don’t want to hurt you. You’re a wonderful guy and I wouldn’t mind going as friends. In a group of friends. That sort of thing.” She pushed her hair back, lightly touching her cheek. I wanted to reach over and touch her cheek too, trace the path her fingers made.
“All right,” I agreed. “As friends. With friends. That sort of thing.” I was just babbling out the same words she said like an idiot. “I don’t think Sam’s going with anyone. Not sure about Lilah and uhh…” I trailed off, not sure what I was even talking about anymore.
“Sounds good.” Her eye twinkled for just a second before dulling again. “I’ll see you later.”
I watched her go off then went to my dorm kicking myself for being such an idiot.
The spring dance came and went. Romance and I went with Sam, Booker, Tal, and Adva–the water nymphs who were good friends of Romance. With three and three it should have felt like a date but it didn’t really.
The dining room had been cleared of the tables for the most part, a few were left with food spread out on them. Chairs lined the wall, decorations hang from the ceiling, and the lights were dimmed. Professor Marshash was at one side of the room in charge of the music. I wore nice shirts and pants, Booker even threw on a tie, but Sam went all out with a suit, vest, and tie. He looked pretty awesome and a lot of girls came over to giggle over him.
Romance and the twins wore very pretty dresses. Romance looked so stunning I felt my heart breaking all over again. We danced a couple times (to fast songs) but I also danced with both Tal and Adva. Tal claimed my first slow dance. We moved to the music, her definitely in tune to the beat than me.
“You’re a great dancer,” I mumbled.
“Thanks. Not as good as my sister though.”
I looked over at Adva. She was dancing alone, eyes closed, her arms in the air as she swayed. She looked like some sort of mythical being. Of course she was some sort of mythical being but you know what I mean. “I think you’re a great dancer,” I promised.
Tal gave a slight chuckle. “Thanks.” She bent her head against my shoulder and I held her close. Across the floor Kiley met my eyes and she smiled, winking at me. She had her arms wrapped around a seventeen-year-old werewolf whose hands were grabbing close to her butt. One slid down and she reached back, grabbing his hand and jerking it up to her back. Then I looked at Romance who sat against one of the walls. Her legs were crossed at the ankle, a cup of punch clutched in one hand, her head close to Eidan as they talked. His eyes were on me.
“Someone has a crush.”
I jumped at Tal’s word and felt the red creep up my neck. Did she mean me and Romance? Or Eidan? Or both? “Oh?” I inquired, not wanting to say more till I knew what she meant. But she didn’t say anything else since the song finished and she went to dance with someone else. I went over to Romance and Eidan, plopping down on Romance’s other side. I wanted to ask her to dance but I also didn’t want to pepper her with dance requests.
The song switched to another and Tal came over, wanting to dance again. In fact we danced with each other more than we did anyone else. During our fifth slow song she leaned against me in a way that made me feel fuzzy and nice. The way I wanted Romance to lean against me. I held onto Tal’s waist firmly and after the song finished we went for a walk. We held hands as we left the dining room.
Once outside we sat down in the cold grass and looked at the night sky. Our arms were stretched out behind the other’s back. Our legs bumped together occasionally.
“You like Romance, right?” she asked after several minutes.
“Yeah,” I admitted. I felt awkward confessing such a thing but considering the circumstances it felt wrong to lie.
“I’m sorry. You’d rather be inside, wouldn’t you?” She tilted her head to one side, watching me, waiting for my response.
I had no idea how to respond. “She’s not interested in me,” I finally said.
Tal sniffled slightly. Then neither of us spoke for some time. It was probably stupid of me to say those things. Both of them. Should I admit what happened between me and Kiley? I hadn’t expected this–to end up outside in this sort of… uh… situation with Tal. I barely knew her and her twin. It felt kinda like a roller coaster really. Kissing Kiley, realizing I liked Romance, and then here under the stars with Tal.
I didn’t know what I wanted anymore. My emotions and hormones felt out of control. All three girls whirled around in my brain, dizzying and confusing. Did others feel this way when it came to love and that stuff?
Tal was pretty. She… was definitely very different from Kiley and Romance, with her blue skin, hair, pointed ears, pointed teeth. I wondered what kissing her would be like. I wondered what kissing Romance would be like. Ugh.
“I think I need to, uh, get some water or… something.” I got up, rubbing my forehead, feeling exhausted out of no where.
Tal got up as well, wiping the grass off her skirt. “Hey, sorry if I did something–“
“No, no. It’s not you. It’s just…” I looked at her, wishing I could pluck an answer out of thin air for this utterly and absolutely CONFUSING world I had been dumped into. I needed some advice, though not sure from who. Dad? Piotr? “I’ve really been enjoying spending the evening with you.”
“Me too.” She gave a short laugh. “When Romance suggested this, I wasn’t sure–but we would be going anyway. I just figured it’d be a thinly veiled excuse for you two to be together without…”
“Without what?” I asked but she just shook her head. “Well. She said she’s not interested in me.”
Tal squinted, as if she wanted to say something. Instead she crossed her arms, rubbing her shoulders with her hands. “We should get back inside.”
I gladly returned to the dining hall with her where we danced together for the rest of the night. At one-ten in the morning we finally left to go to our dorms (the dance was still going on but mostly just older students and vampires remained) and in the hallway before we parted, Tal and I shared a quick kiss.
Sam sat on his bed when I came in, having long ago abandoned the dance. He already changed into his pajamas. “Have a good time?” he asked as I changed.
“Yeah. Did you?”
“I guess. You and Tal really seemed to enjoy yourselves.” He smiled at me, curious to know if anything happened but not wanting to ask. I tossed my clothes in the corner and told him everything, even my confusion over Romance. He listened silently, nodding occasionally, and then agreeing it was all a weird mass of confusion. “No idea what to tell you man,” he said, stretching out. “You like Kiley?”
“Not like that.”
“You like Romance.”
I pulled my legs up on the bed, picking at the bedspread. “Yeah.”
“But she’s not interested in a relationship.”
“Yeah.” I tried to hide the disappointment from my voice but couldn’t.
Sam didn’t comment on my tone though. “You like Tal?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then there you go!” He punctuated his words with a jab of his finger. I stared blankly until he sighed. “You don’t like Kiley, you can’t be with Romance, and you’re not sure about Tal. So why not go on a date with Tal and see if you do like her? What would you lose?”
Dad told me essentially the same thing the next day. So did Piotr. The only one who had a differing viewpoint was Grandpa who couldn’t get past the idea that I really liked someone who didn’t like me back. “Maybe give it time. Your grandfather didn’t like me for a while. He thought I was, um, annoying.” I shook my head, not wanting to really explain how most relationships really went. Grandpa had a fairy-tale relationship as far as I could tell (‘Beauty and the Beast’ to be exact). Grandpa also demanded to know why I hadn’t told Dad yet about the sleeping potion incident. I mumbled my goodbyes and hung up.
Lilah told me to go for Tal. “She’s super nice and super cute and she’s got a great butt. You’d make a great couple!” she urged, causing Sam to laugh at how embarrassed I got.
Then all that stuff was swept under the rug when I woke up one night panting heavily, sweat making the sheets cling to my skin. I shoved my damp hair back, my palms feeling too slick. I hadn’t had a vision. I had a nightmare. From months ago. The haunted house, the ghost–Carlos… his hand in me… intending to kill.
I could have been killed.
I realized it suddenly out of no where for the first time I could have been killed. The ghost had tried to kill me. Murder me. Actually end my life. Not someone else, not some vision I wake up from but–it actually happened. To me. He would have killed me and probably Sam and Blake too, possibly everyone else if that green-eyed girl hadn’t shown up. Definitely me though. I almost died.
“You okay bud?” Sam asked with a yawn as I got out of bed.
“Yeah. I just need to take a whiz.” I slipped on my robe and slippers, pattering out to the bathroom. I soaked some paper towels in cold water to wipe my face off. Why hadn’t this bothered me till now? Why did this just hit me now? I wondered, staring at my reflection.
Wiping my face again I then headed for the door. It wrenched open before I could touch the handle and someone crashed into me. Casimir. He swore loudly and then glowered at the sight of me. “What are you doing in here?!” he demanded.
“Yes, how dare I go to the floor’s public bathroom.” I wasn’t in the mood for him but my sarcasm gave him reason for smacking me across the face with his fist. I fell back, clutching at the reddening spot. “Gonna beat me to a bloody pulp?” I felt bold, way too bold for my own good.
His hand went for my throat but only gripped for a second, to show his dominance. “Get. The. Fuck. Out.” He shoved me into the hall and slammed the bathroom door shut. I glared at the closed door, debating opening it again. I lost my courage, though, and instead returned to my dorm muttering curses about Casimir.
I began to have nightmares about the ghost every single night I didn’t have a vision. Which meant every night I was waking up from something or another. I wished the stupid sleeping potion would help me… I began to go around looking like a zombie. Dark circles hung below my eyes, fatigue followed my every step. I began to fall asleep in classes even when a vision wasn’t coming for me. My teachers grew worried. Professor V asked me to stay behind one day and questioned me about what my problem might be. I didn’t tell him about the nightmares and merely shrugged, claiming I couldn’t sleep.
He sent me to Professor Summer who couldn’t do anything for me. She sent me to the headmaster who sat behind his desk, looking anxious as I once again refused to admit I was having nightmares. I didn’t want to confess the haunted house, the near death experience. Besides…. nightmares were nightmares.
“Perhaps it is something you don’t realize… do you want me to look in your memories?” Mr. Hunter offered.
“No, sir. I’ll be fine.”
Sam and Lilah were both extremely worried. Especially when one afternoon I fell asleep on the ice couch and woke up shivering on the verge of sickness. Lilah kissed my neck, hoping to prevent a cold. I began to just want to go home, figuring a summer with Dad and my family would help. Then one night near the end of April Sam gave me a cup of tea, demanding I drink it. I protested since I didn’t like tea and he pushed it in my hands, telling me it would help.
I drank it down (yuck) and then sat on the floor across from Sam as we quizzed each other on an upcoming text until I grew very drowsy in less than an hour. “You put something in it!” I accused.
“I did,” he replied coolly as he gathered our notes, carefully evening out the stacks.
I rubbed my eyes. “Damn it, Sam, you know what happened last tiiiimmmeee…” I finished with a heavy yawn.
“It’s not a sleeping elixir, it’s just some herbs that will make you really relaxed and tired.” Sam helped me into bed, tucking me in. “Sleep well.”
I wanted to yell at him but instead I fell asleep and got my first full nights sleep in weeks.
I began to have the cup of gross-tasting tea every night. When I had my visions it didn’t impair them. Every time I asked about the herbs Sam would shrug and tell me it didn’t matter. All he’d really say was to reassure me the herbs weren’t addicting, illegal, or considered ‘drugs’. Still, I kept it quiet from everyone including Mr. Hunter when we talked about the fact I was sleeping a bit better.
As for Tal… we began to hang out quite a bit. Mostly at the pool, as she was a water nymph and liked being in the water. Usually I’d just sit on the edge and watch her speed around, impressed by her ability. She asked a lot of questions about my experiences in the ‘human’ world. I admitted I didn’t know much, as I spent a lot of time at home.
“But you do go out and get to do things,” she pointed out.
“Yeah I guess so. I dunno.”
“Must be nice.”
I kicked at the water lightly. “You could go out and do things. People know about non-humans, the magical beings.”
Tal just shook her head sadly. “I’m one of the ones they don’t know about and with the way they treat the ones they do know about…” She didn’t finish the sentence but I knew what she left unsaid. And it was a bit hypocritical of me since I spent a lot of my time before this school making sure people didn’t know I had visions.
I also spent quite a bit of time with Romance. One day we were both assigned the duty of washing dishes and we spent the entire time discussing a TV show we both loved–specifically out headcanons and hopes we had for the direction the show would take. After that we began to find time to sit around and talk about random things. At first it hurt because I still liked her then eventually the pain faded because while I liked her, I also liked her as a person and enjoyed her company.
The rest of my first year at the school pretty much passed like this… hanging out with Sam and Lilah, with others, with Romance, with Tal… drinking the tea so I could sleep at night… constant visions… worried about a lot of other things, like the green-eyed girl… Just so many different things happening and going on that the days blurred together and before I knew it we had our final exams. Sam, Blake, Eli, and I began staying up late studying and cramming together since Eli got the best grades in our year.
“Maybe we’ll get lucky and Apollo’ll have a vision of the test answers,” Blake whined one night and I threw a pillow at him. He fell over laughing. “Joking, dude, joking!… Sorta.”
“You’ll probably fail,” Eli said, snapping his book shut as Blake did a whirl in the air.
Blake stuck a tongue out. “You said that about me last year and lookee, I’m still here!”
We crammed until we were all having headaches and feeling exhausted. I mentioned to Sam one night about offering the others the tea he gave me and he shook his head, not telling me why he didn’t want anyone else to have it. He drank some himself though. It pretty much became our nightly ritual the week before and during exams.
Exams were pretty rough. Some of the students grumbled about not needing grades really because it wouldn’t do them much good–these were the ones whose parents had forced them to come to the school. Booker pretty much slept through all his exams but Lilah told me he did the previous year and still got pretty good grades somehow. I figured he just retook the exams later with the other vampires or something. How I got through the exams I didn’t know, though I caused everyone to have to retake the English exam by dropping off in the middle of it and screaming about tornadoes.
Once the exams were all done we had just one week before school let out for the summer. I was rather relieved to be able to go home, relax, not worry about anything. Except maybe the green-eyed girl. And probably Tal. Possibly Kiley too. And–oh who was I kidding, I’d definitely be worrying about stuff all summer long.