As we drove back home on Vanessa's car, the heavy atmosphere remained and not much was said between us. I guess we were all a bit shocked and still feeling sensitive about the whole situation. I figured we should leave all the talking for later, for now wasn't the time nor the place for it.

I was worried about Miss Margaret's injury, wondering if she would need to see a doctor. She said she was fine but I still couldn't rest assured, obviously. It definitely didn't seem like anything serious. Crushing the boy's wrist like that might have been excessive but I sure don't regret it at all. The bastard got lucky actually, for I only restrained myself from beating him to death because of Miss Margaret and Vanessa's presence. I just wanted her to feel safe and comfortable now, so I guess driving straight home was the best thing to do. No point adding an unpleasant and useless visit to the hospital to such an already traumatic experience.

I don't even want to imagine how much worse the situation could have been, had I not made it on time… No, I didn't make it on time! For I should have been there sooner! Miss Margaret should have never had to deal with such a threatening situation. I feel guilty and a bit incompetent even, for not being able to protect her better. I wonder how badly hurt she really is, not just physically but emotionally…

Back at home, Vanessa just stroked Miss Margaret's hair gently and hugged her goodbye, heading back to her place for the night. I walked her to the door, assuring her it was okay for her to go and leave the rest to me. It was, after all, my job, to take care of Miss Margaret.

Vanessa: "You sure you won't need anything else from me, Elenore?"

Elenore: "No, thank you. I think we'll be fine. Thank you very much, for everything."

Vanessa: "No need to thank me. You know I care a great deal about Margaret and you as well. If anything ever happens just give me a call anytime, okay?"

Vanessa's reassuring words sure helped a lot. It was comforting to have her support. She always helped us a lot, especially when I was younger and it was complicated to manage everything. She was truly someone we could trust and rely on every once in a while. Our only friend.

Elenore: "Okay, thank you once again Vanessa. Good night, we'll see you tomorrow!"

After saying good bye to Vanessa I closed the door and walked back into the living-room. Miss Margaret was just sitting motionless on the couch, with her head down, still clinging to that mysterious book she had been carrying around all the time lately. I approached her carefully and sat by her side on the couch. She had been awfully quiet for a while now, and I was almost afraid to break the silence, but I knew such initiative would have to come from me.

I gently threw my arm around her shoulders and pulled her into a soft embrace. She didn't lift her head or look at me. She just buried her face on my chest and slowly broke into quiet sobs as I wrapped my arms around her. She was quivering. I knew she was crying.

She rarely ever cried, even when she was little, ever since that incident when she lost her memories. Her psychological trauma affected her normal perception and display of emotions, so she never really showed extreme joy and enthusiasm or felt deep sadness and concern. In a way I was a bit glad she had this defensive mechanism to protect her from what would have otherwise been a rather sad childhood, growing up without any parental support. I've always been helping her though, as much as possible, to lead a normal life. But now this happens and I start wondering if exposing her to this sort of "normality" was really that worth it…

Miss Margaret suffered so much already, at her young age, even though she might not be entirely aware of it. I would rather keep her sheltered from this unfair world if I could. From all harm, cruelty and sadness. But I sometimes doubt even my own intentions towards her. Deep inside I know how my reasoning and concern is biased. I know how much I would like to keep her for myself. I know how much it isn't my place to think of her this way. And I know how improper and wrong, in a lot of different levels, these feelings of mine would be perceived as. Yet I would probably overlook all those if I ever got even the slightest hint that she might think of me the same way.

I kept stroking her head gently as she cried on quietly. There was no room for words at the moment. She had obviously been through a very scary situation, and I knew she would need some time, and a lot of comforting from my part, to get over it. Miss Margaret never had any boyfriends or suitors before, at least not that I knew about… and I always had my ways of knowing such things. She was very innocent and naïve about these matters. There is no way she could have guessed that boy's wicked intentions. Maybe she would learn, from this incident, to be more careful around boys from now on, hopefully staying away from all of them, hopefully turning my way for comfort… But this is such poorly disguised wishful thinking on my part. I really must stop entertaining such unbecoming thoughts. Miss Margaret would never think of me like that.

I felt her small frame relaxing on my embrace, as she gradually stopped crying. Her breathing slowed down and she rested her head on my shoulder with her eyes closed, remaining like that for the next few minutes. I leaned over slowly and kissed her forehead in a very sisterly way. It would, perhaps, sound wrong to admit it, under the circumstances, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't enjoying this cuddling session greatly. All about her was soft and delicate and warm: her hair, her skin, her scent… I wanted to lose myself to this temptation I had to endure every single day, every time I helped her get dressed, or in the bath, or on those sweet afternoon naps when she would want to snuggle with me or rest her head on my lap. She was always so close to me, and, at the same time, so out of my reach.

As much as I fancied myself the most respecting of lovers, for she deserved no less, I was ashamed of these intrusive, less than platonic, thoughts that came up occasionally. She trusted me, and that was the most valuable thing I had. I wouldn't dare cross the line and abuse my position to my own advantage. I had too much to lose, and fairly small prospects for a favorable outcome. Yet tonight, just for tonight, she needed my comfort so badly, and I was so willing to give it. I could barely hold myself back as my mouth travelled from that sisterly kiss on her forehead to a not so sisterly kiss on her ear and then her neck... I didn't have enough time to rationalize whether her brief and subtle moan was a sign of protest, approval or innocent ticklishness, for when I came to myself my lips were already resting on hers, sharing a slow, deep, tender kiss.

And this was when I stopped myself suddenly, immediately letting go of Miss Margaret and drawing away from her to the opposite corner of the couch. What was I just doing? Dear God, this was bad. Very bad! How could I lose it like this? The one limit I had promised myself not to cross, for Miss Margaret's sake aswell as for my own good, and now I ruined it all forever. I could barely find the strength to start explaining myself to Miss Margaret, who stood there looking at me with a very confused expression, still visibly flushed with embarrassment from my abrupt action.

I could safely assume this had been her first kiss, and to think I had just stolen it like this. I was filled with shame. I was no less of a pervert than that boy, earlier tonight. I was no less undeserving. I could only beg for her forgiveness and pray she wouldn't hate me forever now.

Elenore: "I'm so terribly sorry, Miss Margaret! I don't know what came to me. I shouldn't have… I didn't mean to go this far! Please, I beg you, if you're kind enough to forgive my shameful behaviour, I promise you this won't repeat itself ever again!"

My heart was racing with uncertainty, as I stood there terrified, with my head bowing low, awaiting for whatever punishment might redeem my rash actions. Even if Miss Margaret, in all her pure hearted benevolence, decides to overlook it this time and forgives me, I myself might not be able to forgive such disrespecting audacity from my part. How could I bring myself to take advantage of her this shamelessly, when she was most vulnerable? I will definitely never be able to forgive myself if I managed to hurt Miss Margaret only further, after the already damaging events of this evening.

Margaret: "Ettou… Elenore… Are you… absolutely sure you didn't mean it? Because I… I liked it... a bit. I mean… I liked it very much, actually. I think I wouldn't mind… doing it again… if it's with you."

Now this was a reaction I wasn't quite expecting. Miss Margaret didn't sound angry, scared or hurt with me at all. I could obviously notice her shyness, due to her inexperience, but she seemed quite curious about the whole thing and eager to accept my previous advances, regardless. I regained my self-control quickly though. Tempting as it was, I couldn't let myself get carried away, again, without properly clarifying the situation to her. Miss Margaret could be so endearingly clueless about these things. I had to make sure she acknowledged my feelings for her, and whether or not she felt the same about me.

Elenore: "Miss Margaret… do you understand what just happened?"

Margaret: "Yes, I think so…"

Elenore: "Then, you should understand Miss, that this sort of thing is meant to be special. It's meant to be shared only with the person you love. It's not something you should be trying around with just anyone."

Margaret: "But… you're the person I love, Elenore. Don't you love me too?"

Elenore: "Of course I do, Miss. But this might be confusing to you. I don't want to pressure you in any way. And I don't want you to believe that you love me just because I kissed you."

Margaret: "Well, it's true I never kissed anyone before. But you're the only one I would like to kiss, Elenore. When that boy held me close, before, I didn't like it. I was afraid and wanted him to let go. But whenever you hold me close or touch me, it always makes me feel warm and safe and at ease. You make me happy and I want to make you happy. I always wanted you to stay with me forever. You want the same, right? Isn't that love?"

I couldn't help but smile dearly at Miss Margaret's simplistic, yet pure, view on love. I wanted to believe as much myself. Sometimes it just felt right to let go of all prejudice and embrace these simple feelings honestly. To think I deprived myself for so long of experiencing such love, when it was laying ahead of me all this time. Yet she spoke of it with such tranquil certainty, as if she had known about it all along. And I thought I was the perceptive one! She might have acknowledged our mutual love long before I acknowledged even my own feelings. She just probably never imagined we could express it in such ways as sharing a kiss.

I approached Miss Margaret, now feeling slightly silly I moved away abruptly in the first place, and slowly embraced her once again, welcoming her back into our interrupted cuddling session.

Elenore: "You know? You're right. There are enough complicated things in this world already. Let's not complicate this aswell. I love you, Margaret!"

Margaret: "I love you too, Elenore!"

For the next hour we just stood in the couch, cuddling and kissing. I had some reservations towards going all out when kissing Miss Margaret, considering she was quite the novice at it, so I went for a more conservative type of kissing to begin with. She let me take the lead and enjoyed the ride. She was very ticklish and sensitive about it, which only added to the fun. She was a bit surprised when I added a bit of tongue, later on, but not necessarily in a reluctant way. I figured she would let me try all sorts of things, as long as I was patient and gentle enough. And I could be very patient and very gentle. I wanted to enjoy every second of it, and make up for all the wasted time, but I wanted to take things slowly too. Above all, I still wanted to treat Miss Margaret with the respect and dignity she deserved. To know she loved me back was enough for me, and much more gratifying than any physical display of affection.

We slowed down a bit and just snuggled, as it was getting quite late. It was past Miss Margaret's bedtime and I figured she'd be getting sleepy by now, and she had classes in the morning. I felt a bit disappointed at the thought that we'd have to go our separate beds and rooms for the night, but I couldn't impose more for now. It would be too sudden, even if my only intention was to cuddle Miss Margaret to sleep. I called it to her attention with a soft whisper to her ear, as I noticed she was starting to fall asleep.

Elenore: "It's time for you to get to bed."

Margaret: "Hmm… I don't want to."

Elenore: "Of course you do. You're falling asleep as we speak."

Margaret: "I want to sleep here."

Elenore: "No, you don't. You'll be cranky in the morning. Then I'll have to use wake up method number three…"

Margaret: "Mou… then, come and sleep with me."

Elenore: "In your bed?"

Margaret: "It's bigger than yours."

Elenore: "If you insist…"

Margaret: "I insist."

That said, I had no choice but to comply. Miss Margaret was fast asleep in my arms, soon after we both got in her bed and kissed good night. My happiness was still too overwhelming. It probably never took me as long to fall asleep as tonight, but I had never slept so peacefully in my entire life either.