12-13-10: I'm really bad when it comes to updates. Terrible. The worst. But I've always maintained that I write because I like it, not for the review toll or anything like that. It's important to me, now at least, to write quality (at least to the best of my ability) chapters, not just some words I churn out on a whim. I was overwhelmed by the responses I initially got and I didn't want to disappoint. I do hope that this chapter resonates with at least one person. Thank you for tuning in.
He had missed his first flight. And the second. And the third. He missed each one he booked and eventually he had to admit that there was a reason why. A beautiful, intelligent, nearly irresistible reason. An infuriating, argumentative, childish yet wise reason. He had to admit that Ariadne was his reason for the delay. But he refrained from using the word excuse. Because she could never be that. It was a cop-out. A lie. She was much more than the cheap word.
She was rare. A something that he hadn't been able to put his finger on. Surely a word had to exist, some word that described her in the way that he thought of her.
"Arthur?" Ariadne called his name in that inquisitive tone of hers, complimented with a dash of concern for good measure.
Arthur looked down to see her eyes, those eyes that always saw him and not the mask he wore far too often. It both relieved him and pained him to know that she could do this. He answered her with a quick 'Yes?' and waited for her to ask a question. Whether she realized it or not, he loved it when she did.
"Why haven't you left yet?"
He was struck. Maybe unconsciously he'd been waiting for her to ask the question, but it came as a surprise nonetheless. As was usual for him, he was slow to answer. She was patient and the silence that followed didn't weigh down as heavily as prior silences. They'd grown accustomed to them, even welcomed them.
He inhaled sharply and sat stiffly. The question made him as uncomfortable as the truth sheathed in fear nestled in his heart did. "Because I don't think I can."
Ariadne looked down to her hands, unsatisfied. "Arthur," she murmured. "That's not what you meant to say."
"Maybe I don't know what to say." Smooth words, vague answers. Typical.
She locked him in with a penetrating stare. "Or maybe you do."
The next silence was not a calm one. It was a storm on the horizon, ready to wreak havoc, but still holding back. With each second, Ariadne felt as if she would explode. She didn't expect much from Arthur. Everyday, she woke with the thought that he'd be gone. And she wouldn't know where. Wouldn't have any way of tracking him down. He would simply be gone, and his presence would fade. It had been three weeks and he hadn't lived up to her expectations. She was thankful, of course. But it was the agony of not knowing what was going on in his head that was killing her.
Arthur was the type that had always intrigued her. The guy that said all that he had to say in his actions, not in his words. That wasn't to say that he wasn't articulate or suave, because he most definitely was. But it was a quiet sophistication. It was alluring.
It was also annoying as hell.
"What would you like me to say, Ariadne?"
The way he said her name frustrated her. It wasn't patronizing, really. But there was an edge to it, as if she's intruded into the gated community of his head. Or his heart.
She sighed, arms down in resignation. "The truth, Arthur. I want to know what you're doing here, with me. I want to know why you haven't left. I want to know why you listen to me go on and on about gothic architecture without protest. But more than that, I have to know. Please." The way she searched his eyes panicked him.
"I like you."
They were only three words, but they instantly melted the tension. The storm faded and clear skies settled in. There weren't any picturesque sunsets or rainbows quite yet - it wasn't that kind of declaration. But it was enough. It was actually more than enough.
She grinned slightly. "Really?" She wasn't ashamed to admit that there was something peculiarly girlish about the way she said this.
"Yes." He hesitated momentarily before going on. "I can't seem to get you out of my head."
She leaned forward, seeing that the very small declaration was difficult for Arthur. She wanted to leap up and hold him, but the action seemed likely to be more intimate than the chaste kiss they'd shared. Instead, she moved her hand across the table tentatively. If what he said was true, he was going to have to meet her halfway.
Boldly, she watched him stare at her fingers and asked, "And what if I said that I more than like you?"
The ball was in his court now. It was his move. She waited, her heart beating steadily though it seemed stuck in her stomach - anticipating his answer. Afraid, anxious.
Arthur moved his arm so that his hand was holding Ariadne's. He smiled genuinely and brought her hand to his lips. The gesture was monumental. Huge. They both knew this. She felt as if anything more would have to wait until the gentleman felt comfortable enough to let his guard down entirely. Until she was ready to do the same.
He brought her hand back down, still holding onto it gently. "I would have to say that I more than like you as well."
"So you aren't leaving, then." It was potentially dangerous to ask again, but she had to know how long this was going to last. She rephrased this time, not a question.
"I don't think I can, Ariadne. Because," he paused, squeezing her hand to reassure her, "I don't want to."
Behind them, the door that had led them to this diner weeks ago opened and the bell above the door rang as usual. In stepped a man in his late twenties, possibly early thirties. He was dressed casually, jeans and a t-shirt. The smile he greeted the waitresses with confirmed his familiarity with the joint. He was a frequent patron. Upon seeing the man, though, Ariadne's eyes widened.
"Arthur," she began softly. "I don't know if you're ready for this yet, but..." She wasn't sure how to get the words out.
He wasn't sure what she was going to say. Was she talking about them? Something else entirely? He saw her frantic stare and was instantly alarmed. "What's wrong?" he demanded.
"Turn around," she told him.
He did as she instructed and although his reaction wasn't as obvious as her own, he was equally struck by the appearance of the man. The man in question seemed to feel the gaze and turned to look at Arthur. The recognition was instant, though neither moved to greet the other. It was something like a bad dream, a nightmare. Arthur briefly wished that it was a dream and almost felt for his totem. It wasn't and he didn't.
"Arthur?" Ariadne called his name, but he couldn't look away from the man.
Arthur figured that if he stayed seated, then he would leave. That's how it always worked with scenes like this. They always left. Always. It was the cardinal rule.
This time, his name was said again. But not as a question. As a statement.
It wasn't Ariadne.
I'm guessing there's a lot of you who know what's going on. I just didn't want to ruin it for those who may not. I'm sorry for the long overdue update. But I do hope that you enjoyed this. If not, I apologize. Thank you so much for tuning in, again. I really appreciate it. :)