I'll see you smile as you call my name
Start to feel and it feels the same
And I know that maybe some days come
Maybe some days come
----Some Day by The Cure
I looked for Christine the moment I arrived at the college. I wandered the halls much like a ghost, seeming to disappear into an adjacent room or into a shadow filled corner when ever a straggler late to their class appeared. Even though I attended a community college it was rare for more than a select few to see me. A handful of strangers, though, have gotten a glimpse of me as I walked into a darkened class and a whispered tale of a strange ghostly figure began to rise. It tickled my fancy when I heard this, but I never intended it to happen.
Christine was no where to be found. I looked in art rooms, the music hall, and a few of the empty rooms where she could dance but it was like she never existed. All I wanted to do was apologize for the night before; for my mother acting like herself and for my question which seemed to trouble her. I never wanted her to run off like she did as if I had struck her; I made her uncomfortable.
As I stepped out of the cafeteria, in my final attempt to find Christine, I saw her two friends sitting at a bench. Taking in a deep breath I walked slowly towards them, wincing when the sun beat angrily down in my face. There was a soft wind rolling by, chilling the two girls as I saw them pull their jackets around them tighter. It didn't bother me though; my black shirt and jeans seemed to shield me just as well.
Leigh raised her eyes and they quickly found me. I saw her take in a sharp breath and mutter something that only Dana could hear. The dirty blonde looked at me from over her shoulder and whispered to her raven haired friend. I found it odd when neither of them moved; did they think I would walk pass them without out a second glance? As I got closer, though, I saw their smiles when they turned and looked at me; I suddenly had a bad feeling.
"Hey there!" Leigh gave a wave as I grew closer. "You joining us for lunch or just wandering' through?" Dana moved over, silently offering me a seat which I took with a soft nod.
"Actually I was wondering if either of you saw Christine today." I sighed. "I've been looking for her since I got here."
Dana shook her head. "She usually doesn't have classes on Fridays."
"Yeah." Leigh chimed in. "Christine sets up a little shop out of her place for tarot readings. It's a hobby that gives her a couple of bucks to spend on junk."
"Tarot readings?" I asked. I rested my chin on my fisted hands and looked down at the table. I never thought much about her hobbies, let alone asked Christine what she liked to do for fun. There was so much I had to learn. "Do you know where she lives?"
Leigh and Dana exchanged glances. "Why?"
"I think I might have offended her last night." I said softly.
"What did you do to her?" Leigh growled. I could see the fire burning in her eyes as her mind began to wander. "If you hurt her in some way, you will regret it."
"No; it's nothing like that." I said quickly. "She came to my concert last night and I think my mother said something that didn't sit well with Christine. I want to apologize; I feel like it was my fault."
Dana sighed and pulled out a small piece of black paper. With a red gel pen she began to scribble something across the night colored article. She slid it to me and cracked a smile. "That's her room number and what floor she's on. She lives in the dorm on campus."
I looked over the scrap of paper and slipped it into my pocket. "Thank you; both of you." I stood and took a step away from the table before I paused. Leigh looked at me and cocked an eyebrow. "I promise I won't do anything to her. If I did I know I would have to answer to you." This got a smile from Leigh and I had a feeling I made a good impression on the two of them.
Without another word I wandered across campus, dodging other students and faculty. The trees didn't help my cause, letting the gold and red leaves fall as they readied themselves for a winter sleep. I was strangely lucky while I wandered through the barren campus; there was no one in sight. I glanced at my wrist watch; it was a couple minutes after noon. Silently I blamed it on the cold weather but thanked what ever God there was that I wasn't in the middle of a mass of people.
The student housing seemed to be well kept, but held on old charm to it. It was about three stories tall and well lived; many people must have wandered through its halls. Taking in a deep breath I pulled open one of the double doors and stepped into the building. I felt a wave of warm air rush against me, it was a good feeling after the walk across the chilled campus. Just like the campus, though, the dorms seemed empty and strangely silent.
I pulled out the paper Dana had given me and looked it over. Christine lived on the third floor and I was beginning to gather that her room would be towards the end of the hall. Shoving the paper back into my pocket I found the stairs and began my trek to the third floor. I noticed the old paintings hanging on the walls. The names meant nothing and some of the images were hideous but there was a select few that I enjoyed. I could only imagine how long it took to convince the college to decorate the building's plain interior but their work was well worth it.
As I stepped onto the third floor I caught the scent of roses. I turned and faced the soft scent and followed it blindly. My eyes watched as the numbers neared that of Christine's and I began to gather that the scent was coming from her room. Sure enough when I reached her room I reached the source of the lovely scent.
A small, hand painted sign greeted who ever saw it and announced that tarot readings were given within. Nervously I knocked on the door; silence followed and I waited. I knocked once more, a little louder this time, and in reply I heard a soft mewing. I smiled softly; it had to be Kyria. Again the feline called to me from the other side of the door and I heard it paw at the barrier between us.
"Come on in!" Christine's voice came from well within the room. "The door's unlocked."
Swallowing my fear I opened the door and stepped into another world. I saw a Siamese kitten skitter into the next room and I followed. The walls were decorated with images of fairytale creatures and pictures of scared Celtic sights. Porcelain harlequin masks dotted one wall and they seemed to draw me towards them. Their empty eyes seemed to beckon me and as I touched the painted porcelain I found a thin layer of dust; these masks were old.
"Sorry about that; I just needed to finish a call." I spun around quickly, catching Christine's eyes quickly. For a moment all we could do was look at each other. "Erik, hi! How, how did you get here?" I pulled out the black piece of paper and handed it to her. Christine looked at it and gave a soft smile. "Should've known. You ran into Leigh and Dana, I take it?"
I nodded. "I wanted to talk to you, about last night."
Christine smiled and shook her head. "You know what, don't worry about it."
"But I do." I replied. "If my mother said or did anything that offended you or if I did something, I apologize. My mother can be dense and over protective and I can be oblivious to things."
Something changed in Christine's eyes and she gave me a warm smile. "Have a seat." She motioned to her couch and disappeared into another room. "Did you want something warm to drink? I have coffee, different types of tea, and hot cocoa."
"Do you have any green tea?" I asked.
Christine poked her head out of the room with a bright smile. "Green tea it is then." After a moment she reappeared. "It'll take a few minutes for the water to heat, so we can chat for a bit." She sat beside me, leaving a comfortable distance between us. "About last night, you don't have to apologize for anything. When it comes to talks about my parents, I lock up and try to get out of there as soon as possible."
"What did your parents do to you?" I asked.
"Nothing." Christine said softly. Her eyes lingered on her hands before she looked at me. "My mother died when I was five. She was hit by a drunk driver on one of her nightly walks. She was a safe distance from the road and it was a clear night; she was visible, we know that. I really don't know much about her. All I know about her now was from my father. He told me stories about how they met and the years when I when I was growing. It hurt him deeply when she left us and all I could do was be strong and grow up a bit to comfort him.
"Then my father left me too. It was last year, around Christmas, when it happened. He was shoveling the sidewalk and I was inside fixing the two of us some cocoa. I heard a crash from outside which startled me, but I didn't think much about it. Carrying the tray of cocoa I went outside and I saw my father; he was lying in the snow. I screamed so loud when I saw him lying there. I dropped the tray and raced towards him. I could hear the mugs shatter against the ground but that really didn't matter at that moment.
"A few neighbors heard me scream and came outside to see what happened. One of them called an ambulance and this elderly lady risked herself to bring a blanket to wrap him in. Turns out his heart just stopped; my father was a strong man, though. Deep down I knew that he finally died of a broken heart. Ever since then I've been alone."
"You have no other family?" I asked softly.
Christine shook her head. "None that I would live with. My father left me a lot of money to keep living a comfortable life, though. I have most of it in the bank and just enough in a separate account to keep me going." She looked at me with a heavy breath. "What about your father? I didn't seem him with your mother the other night."
"I never really had one." I replied. Christine didn't bother to ask why and hurried to kitchen when she heard the kettle whistling. Silently I began to wonder if and when she would ask me about the mask.
"Erik," Christine said, "is your mother upset with me?"
"Why do you ask?"
Christine reappeared with a tray in her grasp. A beautiful china tea set glistened before me as she put the tray on the coffee table. She began to the pour the tea into their rightful cups and continued. "When she saw me last night she gave me a nasty look. You say your mother is over protective; I just want to make sure I haven't stepped over a line or something." Christine placed a cup of tea before me and took a seat. She cradled the cup in her hand, watching the cloudy liquid before taking a sip. "I think she believes I'm trying to take you away from her."
I looked down at my own cup. "I wouldn't put up a fight if you were." When I looked at Christine I saw her cheeks growing rosy. She averted her eyes and took a long drink of her tea. I smiled slightly, feeling my own cheeks growing warm. "I was wondering if you would do a tarot reading for me. I've always been interested in these things."
"Okay." Christine put her cup down and disappeared into an adjacent room. When she reappeared she had a deck of cards in her hand. The back of them were covered with stars and the edges were worn from use and age. She knelt before the coffee table, sitting across from me and began to shuffle the cards. "Did you have a specific question?"
"Not really." I replied. "I suppose just draw a card or two."
Christine nodded with a soft smile. She shuffled the deck a few more times before fanning the deck before her. "Pick the card that seems to draw you."
I looked at the used cards; they all looked the same and yet they seemed to emanate with a strange heat. I placed a hand about an inch from the cards and took in a deep breath. My fingers twitched suddenly and I could feel a strange sensation jolt through them. That force seemed to draw my hands towards a card, placing a finger on a single card.
Silently Christine took away the remaining cards. She didn't speak but when the card was turned I saw her flinch. I looked down at the card I had chosen and felt myself blush. Staring back at the two of us was The Lovers. A knot seemed to form in my throat when I thought about talking, so I leaned back and rested my back against the couch.
"What does it mean?" I said once I found my voice.
Christine bit her lip. "Well, it basically means you are searching for that special someone." I saw something change in her eyes as she stared at the cards. "This woman is part of you; the two of you are so perfectly attuned with each other that you can't really resist one another. You don't like being apart from her," she looked at me, "do you?"
I looked into Christine's eyes. "No I don't." Slowly I slipped from the couch and knelt before the coffee table, my eyes never leaving Christine. "What about you?" We looked at each other; her eyes were filled with confusion and her cheeks were growing red. My hand inched closer to hers, our fingers finally touching and entwining. "How do you feel when you're apart from him?"
"I. . . ." Christine stuttered; she turned her eyes away from me. "Erik, I really don't know how to say this. . . ."
A soft smile crossed my lips. "Then don't." I whispered. "No one should force you to say a word; only when you're ready." My fingers grazed softly across Christine's wrist and I felt her arm twitch. "You okay?"
Christine's cheeks grew a little rosy and she smiled. "Yeah, you just tickled me a little."
I cocked an eyebrow. "You're ticklish?" I saw Christine's eyes widen with childlike innocence. "Why don't I just try and find out."
Before Christine could move away I was beside her, my fingers tickling her sides. She let out a squeal of surprise and pulled away, laughing the whole time. I laughed and went after her, tickling her when ever I found an opening. She slapped my hands away playfully and somehow managed to find ticklish spots that I didn't know I had.
Christine pulled away from me, but I held onto her wrist. She let out a sound of surprise as she fell backwards; I fell as well. I felt warmth run through out my body as I stared into Christine's eyes; our bodies were touching and I could feel her chest rising and falling with every breath. My hand was still around her wrist but I pulled it away, my fingers trailing down her arm; she shuddered.
"You're really ticklish." I said softly.
"I know." Christine smiled. "People usually don't try and tickle me, though."
I returned the smile. "But is seems like you enjoyed it."
"No one gives me that type of attention."
"You always have mine."
Once more Christine's face grew red. We remained like that for a moment, until Christine broke the silence. "So, are you just gonna squeeze the air outta me or are you gonna move?"
It was my turn to blush. "Oh! Sorry." I pulled away from Christine and sat beside the coffee table, staring at the over turned. My eyes turned to the tarot cards. The Lovers card was still over turned, but the rest were still fanned out in a neat row. Silently I reached out and took a card from the row. "I wonder." I whispered. I flipped the card over and suddenly felt my heart sink. With a sharp breath I threw the card across the table as if it had bitten me.
"What's wrong?" Christine asked, sitting up.
I shook my head. "I knew this wasn't a good idea." I scrambled to my feet, feeling my chest tighten as I breathed heavily. "My mother told me to stay away from the occult. I thought she was being rash, but that card. . . . That card gave me an awful feeling."
Christine stood and retrieved the card. She looked at it and heaved a sigh. "Erik, you don't have to be frightened of it." She sat on the couch, studying the card in her hand. She motioned for me to join her but all I did was shake my head. "The Death card doesn't mean you'll die; it means that there is a change going on in your life. A phase is ending and you will soon enter a new era in your life."
"Change is represented by death." I muttered with a sarcastic tone. "I see Death in my dreams, Christine. Death only brings pain and destruction in my life." My hands twisted into fists and I raised them to my face, letting them open. My fingers grazed across the smooth surface of my mask. "I have to wear this because of my brush with Death. If I could turn back time I would see to it that my father never made it home, let alone into the kitchen. That bastard ruined my life."
"You can't be serious." Christine said softly. "Everything happens for a reason."
I spun around violently, growling like a vicious animal. "How could you believe that? Was it fate that made me this way? Did God decide that I should live my life in solitude and never live a normal life?" Christine seemed to shrink as I slowly moved towards her. My anger was growing and, this time, I felt like I didn't have control. "Why did He have the right? Does he not want me to know the simple pleasures in life? Because of Him my mother locks me away so I'm not part of her life; she lies to her boyfriends so she doesn't have to explain what happened to me. Because of God I can only long for a woman's touch; my own mother refuses to kiss me, so how can I expect another woman to look upon me with love in their wretched hearts?"
"Erik. . . ." Christine whispered.
"No." I roared. I took in a deep breath, trying to force my anger to break. Running my hands through my hair I shook my head. "No. This was a mistake. I should've never bothered with you. I'm sorry, Christine; I'm sorry for every thing." A tear suddenly trickled down my cheeks, cooling my skin. I turned away, not caring if she saw the tears. I listened to Christine breath deeply and move around on the couch. "I'm happy that you were able to see my performance and I thank you for the tea, but I have to go."
"Do you want to get together tomorrow, for the painting?" Christine asked, her voice shaking.
"I'd be surprised if you found me." I replied. "Right now, I just want to disappear and, believe me, I can disappear and never be found."
Author's Note:: Sorry about taking so damn long with this chapter. My muse likes to mess around with my head and I can hardly get a thing done. I think he'll be nice for a while and let me get some writing done. I'm starting the next chapter as I type this so I'll be happy if I can get the next one up later this week. Again, I'm sorry!