“Hey did you know Romance Frostfall got married?”
I recoiled as Blake slapped a newspaper down in front of me. He and Eli and Booker were visiting for a get-together and of course one of the first things to be brought up… ugh.
“I guess that’s why she never came back to school,” Booker yawned. “I might take a nap before we go out.” He rested his head on the table and fell asleep within minutes. Blake got a sharpie out and began drawing on Booker’s face.
“Well, you haven’t changed at all,” Eli chuckled. He still looked too pale, and still had the dark circles under his eyes.
Blake stuck his tongue out then struck a pose. “Would you want me to?”
While everyone laughed I took a glance at the paper. Romance, in black and white, stood with a man decades older than her. Their arms were linked. She had a very faint smile on her face, one that looked more resolved than forced. Then I realized the flowers filling her bouquet were hyacinths. My finger traced the flowers, an old ache throbbing in my stomach. It had been a couple years yet I missed her so much. I still loved her, I still wanted her.
Wonder what she’d think about me whoring myself out. The vile words made my stomach hurt more. I hadn’t thought if it in those terms before. Escort. Paid date. Whore. People would use that term, yes. I–I didn’t see it that way. Sex was just sex. It wasn’t much without love. The only sex I ever really liked-like had been with Kiley and even then it felt like something missing. Sure my body reacted on my paid dates and it did feel physically okay in the moment, but that emptiness inside wouldn’t be filled. Would it ever? Would I find someone that made me feel the same that Romance did?
In the mean time–until I found that person–I didn’t feel guilty or bad about getting to paid to take people out and give them pleasure in bed. I just hoped that whoever I did fall for would understand.
Plasma 501 was a very exclusive lounge catering specifically to vampires and less specifically to other supernaturals. One couldn’t get in unless one had an invitation. Or if one were extremely rich. Or if one were extremely important. Like Booker. He flashed his ID at the bouncer and the bouncer snorted and told us to get lost.
“Go call whoever is in charge,” Booker yawned.
Since Booker obviously had fangs and Blake had wings, the bouncer shrugged and made a call. “Yes sir, some young whelp says he can waltz in with his friends. Vampire, faerie–“
“–elf, I think, and…” The bouncer looked me and Eli over. “Wizards, I guess. Uhh I think the ID said Kingsley. Should I t–” The bouncer jerked the phone away and we could all hear the other voice squawking. Booker smirked. “Yes sir, yes, I got it. Yes.” He hung up the phone and stepped aside. “My deepest and most sincere apologies, Mr. Kingsley, your name wasn’t on the list and I wasn’t aware…”
We went into the lounge, all five of us grinning like idiots.
There were vampires scattered around, drinking blood out of champagne glasses. A few human-looking people. No other supernaturals. Everyone we passed gave us looks but nobody bothered us except an extremely gorgeous and glamorous woman who draped herself across Booker.
“Why, Booker Kingsley! I’ve been knocked off my feet!”
“Is that why you’re standing on mine?”
She stepped back. “I never would have expected to see you out and about.” She licked a bit of blood off her lips as her piercing gaze went over us. “And such handsome young companions. Are they as tasty as they look?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Booker said, his ears tinting a teensy bit. I hoped I wasn’t obviously flustered. “Just because you take advantage of people…”
“Moi?!” She gave a throaty laugh. “Oh, sugar, I can’t help it if men offer their necks… and more… to have a little…” another lick over her lips and her eyes met mine, “suck.” Maybe before that would have made me feel all horny and awkward but now it just sounded cheesy. I tried not to laugh.
Blake shoved himself in front of all of us. “Ever taste a pixie before?”
Her smile turned into a sneer. “Darling, I wouldn’t eat a pixie even if you paid me. It’s like dining on cheap glitter.”
To his credit, Blake didn’t let the insult deflate him though I could tell he had been very injured. I put my arm around him and pulled him close. “It’s okay, darling, I prefer glitter.” I gave his cheek a kiss and pulled him towards the bar. The woman glowered at us all as Sam, Booker, and Eli followed. Booker tried apologize and we all waved his words away. We understood there were darker vampires out there.
The bartender took our orders and because of the ‘problems’ at the door our first round of drinks were free, ‘manager’s most sincere apologies to young Kingsley’. Various mixed drinks for all of us except for Booker who got cow’s blood. We loitered around the edge of the dance floor, knocking back our drinks and talking about our summers. Girls came over and one by one we all went out to the dance floor except for Sam. The woman I danced with wore fake fangs and had a bite tattoo on her neck.
Blake and I wound up pretty drunk by the time we went back to the apartment. We both went to sleep pretty early while the others stayed up chatting. Of course I had to have a vision while sleeping my drunken state off. I had before had to deal with a vision while drunk and the swimmy feeling made things worse. My stomach churned as I watched a woman stab another for stealing her man. Blood spurted everywhere and I fell to my knees, wanting to vomit. What would happen if I threw up in my vision? Watcher why did I have to deal with this drunk.
Somehow I managed to wake up just before the bile rose. I rolled out of bed and made a huge mess all over the floor. I did my best, in my groggy state, to clean it up. Sam woke up and helped me out while I tried to tell him not to worry about it. He seemed to think I was vomiting from pain again, like I had ages ago from my weird change-of-vision. Finally he understood that I threw up because of the alcohol and spent the rest of the time helping me clean and get back into bed chuckling.
On Saturday we had brunch at a nice restaurant (minus Booker) then hung out in the apartment for a while. Blake really wanted to go for a ride on the motorcycle so he and Sam left. With Booker still asleep, that left me and Eli pretty much alone. Awkward.
“So what have you been up to?” I asked as we sat down on the couch.
Eli pressed his hands against his thighs and leaned forward, frowning like he didn’t want to answer my question. Okay guess he doesn’t want to talk. I reached for the TV remote but before I could hit the power button Eli said, “We never had that conversation.”
“About the spy. You said you had a vision of us talking about it before we left school. It didn’t happen.” Eli shot me a very accusatory glare. “You lied to me, to get me to confess I knew there was a spy.”
Uh-oh. “I’m sorry I lied–“
“Don’t, just don’t.” He got up, striding towards the kitchen area. His hands slammed down on the counter. “You know what it’s like? To live in absolute fear? Every fucking day I woke up wondering if he’d kill me. He constantly sent me threats, you know. Of course you know, you know everything don’t you.”
I got up, heading towards him. “Eli–“
“No.” His eyes stopped me in my tracks more than his voice did. “He threatened everyone. Even you. Said he’d hurt you guys in random order if I ever revealed his identity.” Now Eli’s hands went to cover his face. “He had the hold over me every second. I wanted to leave. I should have left, I should have just left the country.”
“And I made you come back.”
He shook his head. “Seriously? No. You didn’t, none of you did that day you came to talk to me in Midnight Hollow.” He adjusted his glasses then sighed. “He did. He told me if I didn’t come back to classes he’d slit all your throats. I–I wasn’t sure if he would. I didn’t think he would. I didn’t want to risk it.”
I felt sick at the thought he had been going through this. “I’m so sorry,” I said, worried he might take offense to that too.
Thankfully Eli’s face softened just a bit. “When I started dating Varuna I thought things might get better but then he just threatened her exclusively.”
“So he was still around at the end of our school days. A teacher.”
“Or someone younger,” Eli pointed out swiftly. “One or the other. And I’m not saying.”
“Is he still… threatening you?” I managed to ask. Eli’s head just swung back and forth. He wasn’t going to tell me. “You surely can’t be under his thumb–“
“I’m always going to be under his thumb,” Eli said rather weakly.
“How did you even find out his identity?”
His face filled with despair. “I… I–“
The door to the other room swung open and Booker came ambling in, yawning and stretching. “Morning guys!” he said. Eli retreated and the moment was lost.
Eli and I didn’t get a chance to talk privately the rest of the day or on Sunday morning before the guys left. I felt that if we had had more time on Saturday afternoon I might have gotten something from him. Also I couldn’t help but feel worried, if he still was under this spy’s thumb then the spy still had some sort of plans. A teacher. I doubted someone younger could make Eli feel this way from so far away. But… which teacher?
I spent the week with a bit of a headache, my mind swirling with thoughts of Eli. I tried my best to remember everything that Briggs had said about the spy and everything Eli had said, doing my best to try and solve this damned mystery. Part of me wanted to just relax all weekend but part of me wanted to make up not, uh, earning some cash the previous weekend. I set up dates for Friday and Saturday night, and one for Sunday afternoon. But then on Thursday night Kiley e-mailed me asking if we could meet up for lunch on Saturday because she had something important to talk about.
Friday night my date went on a lot longer than I expected so getting up early enough in the morning to get ready for the lunch with Kiley was rough. I felt pretty tired as I got dressed and almost felt like I could fall asleep on the taxi ride over.
The place Kiley wanted to meet at was a small bar closer to the suburb part of Bridgeport. I got out of the taxi and went inside, searching for my friend. She sat at a table and waved at me. I waved back and headed over then froze when she stood up.
A very small but obvious baby bump protruded out.
“Apollo!” Kiley threw her arms around me, hugging tightly. The baby bump pressed against my body.
“Kiley wow, it’s good to see you!” I managed to hug her back. My headache and exhaustion had grown worse just at the sight. I remembered the vision of her, of finding out she was pregnant. She wanted a baby. However I also suspected that she was around four months pregnant. Four months ago was late May, when we had done it three times in our final week of school. Oh Watcher no.
Kiley sat down. She glowed with that pregnant lady glow and couldn’t stop her smile. “I’ve missed you so much! How has your summer been? You look great!”
“It’s been pretty good. Work is pretty stressful but otherwise good.” I wanted so bad to ask about her pregnancy. Instead I asked, “How have you been?”
“Good, good. Busy. Tired,” she added with a laugh. “I’ve been living in Bluemill Valley working as a waitress. Speaking of which…”
We ordered our food and before I could ask about Kiley’s condition she linked her fingers together and gave me a strange look. “I’ve been really wanting to talk to you, Apollo. About something important.”
I’m going to be a father. “Oh?”
“I…” She bent her head forward, letting out a quiet sort of sad sound. “I’ve not been completely honest with you. About–about certain things. I’ve thought about it all summer and feel like I really need to tell you… tell you everything.” She let out a breath, sending wisps of hair floating away from her face. “I just want to apologize first and foremost. I never meant to hurt you. When we met–well, I guess I need to go back to the beginning which is before I met you.”
What does all this have to do with her having my baby? I wondered, holding onto my glass of water for dear life. Unless it’s about how much she’s wanted a baby.
“I’ve always wanted to be a mother.” Oh Watcher. “When I was young I only ever wanted baby dolls to play with.” She traced one finger across the tabletop. “I’ve always felt so much that being a mother is my calling. I don’t know if you can understand what it’s like, to know something so surely all your life. In any case… my first year at Hunter’s, before you were there, Shoshanna had a–a prediction.”
Now Kiley turned pink and squirmed in her seat. “I didn’t think much of it at the time. It seemed so cryptic. Until you showed up. It–she–she said, ‘Look to the Greek skies to find your true happiness’.” She blushed even darker, the red creeping down her neck. “I had no idea what it even meant. Then you came to the school. Apollo. A Greek god.”
I couldn’t even breathe properly at this point as realization of what she meant unfolded itself inside my head. Soon anger began pouring into my body. Anger, and hurt.
“I’m guessing you understand what I mean. My true happiness. Being a mother. I felt, I knew, it meant you and I would one day be together. I pursued you because of that. And I am sorry.”
“You used me,” I spat out, unable to stop myself.
Her eyes got very big. “No. No! I didn’t, not like that! Not like what you think!”
“Oh?! Then what the hell do you mean?!”
“I probably would have, if you had given in when we were younger! But then I got to know you and realized you were such a great guy. You were always so honest and so good and so–nice. That’s why I didn’t push, because if it was meant to be it would happen.”
“And then we got together in our final year.”
Her hands began shaking. “Yes,” she admitted softly. “I didn’t mean for it to be like that–“
“You’re the one who brought up sex!” I said, dropping my voice low, not wanting everyone in the bar to hear this. “On our date.”
“I did, but it wasn’t–I wanted to be with you because I liked you, not because of what Shoshanna told me. I hope you believe me.” Her eyes got watery but I didn’t care. “I know it’s a lot to ask. For you to believe me after what I’ve told you. I thought–considered not telling you any of this. But you’re my friend and I wanted you to know. I needed you to know. Not just to ease my conscious or in case anyone else said anything to you, but because it was the right thing–“
“Anyone else?! Who else knows?!” I demanded, my voice going back up.
Kiley delicately bit her bottom lip. “I don’t know. Shoshanna, obviously. Most the girls in our year knew.” Oh Watcher, that means Romance knew. “I figure most the guys found out too.”
“You didn’t–you had no reason to tell me all this, you could have just gone merrily along your life and leaving me in the dark!”
“I told you, I realized it was the right thing to do!” He voice quavered and she quickly grabbed a napkin to wipe her cheeks. “I realized how shitty I was when we were younger! I spent so many nights laying awake wondering if I had just used you towards the end, but I didn’t, I swear I didn’t. I like you so much! Not–not romantically, but you’re an amazing friend and as I said, you’re very attractive, and–“
“Stop! Just stop!” I did shout and several people looked over towards us. I swallowed and returned to a quiet voice. “So how did you do it?”
“What did you do? Prick holes in the condoms?”
Fury flashed across her face. “Excuse me? I–I would never do that! Watcher, how fucking dare you accuse me of doing that?! I’m not like that!”
I got up, my body trembling. “Well you got what you wanted obviously.” I shot a glare at her stomach. Our baby inside. My baby. She had lied to me. She had used me, to get that baby. “I need–I need to clear my head.”
“Apollo, it’s not like that–“
“Oh right. It was what was meant to be.”
“Stop it! You don’t understand! It’s–“
I pushed my chair back and left the bar. My head pounded so hard it felt like my eyeballs would pop out of my head. Too many emotions pulled at my body, my mind. I swayed down the sidewalk. I felt way too angry to let any of her pleasant words sink in, her assurances that she didn’t use me. And so many people in the school had known. I would help give Kiley her true happiness. A child. For several years she hovered on the edge of my life, just waiting to pounce.
I swore under my breath and called for a taxi. I needed to get as far away from the diner as possible. As far from Kiley as I could. Not that I would stay away. Regardless of what happened, of why she jumped into bed (er, car seat) with me, of how she pregnant, the fact was she was pregnant and in a few months would have my baby and I had no intention of just abandoning my child. But how–how could she do that to me?!