Chapter One – New Years Eve

New Year's was a double-edged sword. On one hand, Sophie and I had a near magical and perfect evening. The other hand held the inevitable nightmare; I realized that the magic had come to an abrupt end.

The dinner cruise was fantastic. We were by no means the only people on the ship, but somehow it felt like we were the only two people on the planet. It was so intimate, so perfect. Sophie was absolutely stunning - the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Her eyes were beaming with happiness and love as we sat down for dinner, talked, and ate. Towards the end of dinner, however, Sophie began studying all of the other passengers and I sensed, for the first time that evening, a tinge of sadness emanating from her. She didn't share her thoughts with me and I didn't want to ask. I stood up from my seat, held out my hand to her, and asked her to dance with me. She soon seemed to push the sadness aside and returned to the moment as we took our places on the dance floor.

As the midnight hour grew closer, we stepped off of the dance floor and made our way out onto the deck. It was a little chilly and Sophie worried about me getting too cold. I told her not to worry, we'd be fine with being outside for a little while. She began chewing on her lip, contemplating, no doubt, trying to think of a reason to move us back into warmer temperatures. Her facial expressions made it hard for me to keep from smiling, but finally I won her over and she began to relax. The firework show began with a thundering boom and an explosion of color! I had the instant satisfaction of knowing that the show was a complete surprise to Sophie. It took no time at all for her to realize the significance of the fireworks. She turned to face me and smiled so warmly at me before brushing her lips across mine. The kiss took my breath away. She took my breath away.

The cruise ended shortly after the last of the fireworks erupted. We made our way off of the boat and into the limo. Sophie melted into me, conforming to my body perfectly – it felt so right. I was made for her and she for me. The drive was quiet, but not an uncomfortable silence. Soon, the city lights faded and we pulled into the driveway of my house. The driver opened the car door and once I made my way out, I gingerly took Sophie's hand and escorted her to the front door.

I have to admit, I was nervous. I'd been alive for over one hundred years, and I had never found myself in this situation before. A girl, no a woman, coming home with me – to stay the night. It was surreal. I could sense that Sophie was a little nervous, too. At least we were good company for each other. The comfortable silence that we had in the car was replaced with awkward quiet now. Finally, Sophie spoke and broke the tension.

"Mind if I change in the study?" she asked.

"No, of course not." I said, feeling relief that she was seemed to be getting more comfortable.

I made my way to my bedroom while Sophie went to the study. As I changed from my more formal wear to my sweats and thermal, the nerves started subsiding and I actually began feeling at peace – this was right; we were right together. I couldn't help the smile that settled on my face. I had been smiling so much lately; I knew that Sophie was the reason. I loved her so much - more than life itself.

By the time I made it back to the living room, Sophie was there. She was absolutely adorable in her pajamas and t-shirt. It wasn't uncommon for me to see her in her pajamas and hair pulled up for the night, but for some reason, seeing her like this in my house was different. Again, it felt right, it felt natural.

"Are you tired?" I asked. I wasn't tired, I think I needed time to settle my mind from the night's festivities.

"No." she didn't hesitate in answering. She just looked at me and smiled.

I turned the TV on found some lingering New Year's celebrations. I sat down on the couch and Sophie immediately curled into me. She rested her head on my shoulder and I naturally wrapped my arm around her. I breathed in the scent of her hair, letting the sensation fill me.

In a voice so soft, Sophie said, "Thank you for taking me to dinner. It was great."

"Thank you for coming." I said, smiling and tightening my embrace around her.

The celebrations on TV were on, but I really wasn't paying attention. I was reflecting, thinking about all of the things that had happened this past year, or more so about everything that happened since I met Sophie this past fall.

Sophie broke the silence and my thoughts, "Can I ask you something?"

"You can ask me anything."

"Will you kiss me?" she asked shyly.

I was confused. She's never had to ask me to kiss her. Was she still feeling nervous? I could sense some nerves, but they didn't seem to be too anxious.

"You don't have to ask me, Sophie" I reassured her.

"No, I mean. Will you really kiss me?" she clarified. That's when the puzzle started to come together in my mind. She was letting me know that she was ready. Ready for the next step.

I placed my hand on her face, gently cupping her cheek in my palm. Slowly, I made my way to her mouth. The kiss started slow and sweet but quickly transformed into pure heated passion as I picked up on Sophie's desire. She repositioned herself so that she was pressed more firmly against me, pulling me into her. I moved my hand from her cheek and slid it into her hair, the other hand snaking around her waist. She felt so good next to my body; I wanted to get closer to her. I moved so that I was on top of her, absorbing all of the heat she was giving. Our lips were dancing in unison. Sophie let out a soft moan and with that break, I made my way to her neck. Showering as many kisses as I could along her soft skin. Her skin, it was like Heaven - so soft, so warm, so inviting. This was right.

I felt her face lift and her lips found mine once again. Our mouths were mingling while she placed her hands under my shirt. She pressed her hands into my back, urging me to be closer to her, to become one. This realization, along with the other sensations, resulted in me pulling her closer to me. I couldn't get close enough. My hand gripped at the back of her neck. My contact was only briefly interrupted when she removed my shirt, pulling it over my head. The renewed sensations were nearly overwhelming. We were both on the verge of overheating and I had to be sure she was ready for this, that she wanted it as much as I wanted her, before things continued any further.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" I breathed the question into her ear.

Sophie simply nodded and gave a whispered, "Yes."

As soon as she uttered the words, our lips and hands began working with such a hungry passion. Our kisses were intense, melting everything else away.

My head started to hurt, it felt like things were beginning to spin and swirl out of control… Like I was losing control… I couldn't lose control… DON'T lose control!

I kissed her neck, her collarbone, her earlobe.

Do I dare open my eyes? My head... My eyes... Concentrate, Wes... Don't lose your focus… Stay here, stay in the moment, stay with Sophie.

I moved back down to her neck, raining kisses.

Too much, too much… I'm losing touch… I'm losing my grasp on time… How much time has already passed? No, no, no, no, no…

I had to focus. I closed my eyes tightly, trying to reign in my control. I tried but couldn't hide my frustration. I let out a low growl. I was losing my grasp on time. I clutched Sophie tighter and rested my head against her chest, willing and hoping her heartbeat would bring me back to the rhythm of time. I was working to regain my focus when I felt Sophie lift her head.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"I'm fine." I lied. I was embarrassed and afraid of what this turn of events might mean for us.

"No you're not. What's wrong? What did I do?"

This was wrong. I couldn't have her think she was doing anything wrong. I just needed to regain my composure. I let the beating of her heart vibrate in my ears, slowly bringing me back to the moment.

"Nothing. You didn't do anything. I'm fine, just give me a minute." I pleaded, hoping she believed me.

I felt her relax a little, but the remaining tension in her body told me that she was still mulling things over, trying to reason out my sudden behavior.

"I'm sorry. If you don't want to…"

"Sophie…" How do I explain this to her? How do I disappoint her? I buried my head into her shirt, wishing I could bury my shame, my torment. "I don't know how to stay focused. I can't."

"Oh, you mean you can't, actually do that?" she asked curiously.

"Yes, I can. I think anyway." I said, shaking my head. I'd never tried with anyone before. I didn't want her to think I was inadequate in more ways than one. "But that's not the problem."

"Then what is it, Wes? You're killing me with suspense." Oh, Sophie, bad choice of words. It pained me to hear her speak those words.

I sat up, trying to convey exactly what I meant.

"I have to concentrate really hard to keep my mind on pace with real time."

"Okay," I could tell she was waiting for more of an explanation.

"When I'm close to you like that, it is virtually impossible for me to keep focused."

"So what are you saying?"

"An hour together with you could feel like a second to me if I'm not careful."

"Careful?"

"If I let myself lose concentration on time, which is exactly what happens when I'm that close to you, then I would virtually lose hours of time with you." I closed my eyes, trying to push away the fears that were starting to surface.

"Don't you think it would be worth it? You might lose one thing, but you gain another." She countered.

Hmmm… definitely food for thought… What was I willing to sacrifice for Sophie? To be with Sophie? To really be with Sophie?

"Being close to you feels better than you can imagine." I explained to her, being as honest as I could.

"Then what's the problem?" she asked.

"I would rather be just like this with you for hours than the other way for minutes." I said with complete sincerity in my voice.

"So, it bothers you to be close to me?"

I shook my head, I didn't want her thinking anything like that. "No. Actually, when I'm around you, I'm the calmest. It's easiest to concentrate when I'm with you, until you get me like this." I offered a smile. She had to know she drove me crazy in all the right ways.

"So, does that mean we could never?" she asked, leaving the rest of her thought to dangle in the air between us.

"I don't know." I replied honestly. "But, I won't sacrifice my clarity for it. I don't want to miss a single moment of the time I have with you." Our time, her time, was too precious to simply let slip by. I pulled her to me and tried to erase any self doubts she might have had. I kissed her sweetly on the forehead.

"Well, I guess we have plenty of time to work on your clarity." She said with 100% confidence.

What was I supposed to say to that? What would she say if she knew what I knew? That her time was limited? That we didn't have as much time as she thought we did. I wished I had her confidence, that I could see a future filled with endless practice sessions and opportunities.

"Speaking of time," she said, pulling me out of my thoughts, "what will happen to us as time does go by and I get older?"

She couldn't have picked a worse time to ask me that question, with all of the other thoughts swimming through my head. I instinctively tightened my grasp around her; I wasn't ready to let go of her yet. Sophie was different, she had to be different. This was going to work, right?

"I don't know." I said, but not even I believed it.

It wasn't too long after that that Sophie fell asleep, her head still tucked into me. My arms held her as close to me as possible. With her breathing so soft and at an almost hypnotic pace, I was swept in to deeper and, unfortunately, darker thoughts and fears.

How much time would I have left with Sophie? What was going to happen to me when she left again? Could I handle it this time? The time without her before was darkness, complete darkness. If she left now, how could I go on? What would time, let alone life, be reduced to when she was taken away again? I loved Sophie with every fiber of my being. This time seemed so much more intense, so much more had been invested. She knew my secrets. She knew me, the real me. And despite all of that, she wanted and loved me. How would I be able to make it without her?

If I was to walk away now, before any more time and soul was invested, would it be better? Would it make the inevitable more bearable? Was I strong enough to walk away? Could I afford not to be? I just didn't know the answers… I was at a complete loss…

I carried Sophie to my bedroom and laid her gently on the bed. I turned off any remaining lights and climbed into bed.

Soon it was just me, my tormented thoughts, fears, and darkness left to stir in the night. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw ghosts of the past. The ghosts of lost loves. I was haunted by the love and loss. What did that mean for me and Sophie?

Is the fairytale over? Did the magic spell just break?