You inspired me.
I couldn't update my other story, like I wanted to because I'm not ready, but I've had this story in my head for a long time now and because of you, I've finally written and perfected it.
Safe From Harm
In the end, we only regret the chances we didn't take, relationships we were afraid to have, and decisions we waited too long to make.
I smiled inwardly as I read a text on my phone for the fifth -or had it been sixth?- time since I had received it.
Adrian had sent me one of his usual texts asking for help to free him of his boredom. Imprisonment was the word he preferred to use though. But unlike other texts, this one had a photo attached. I selected 'Open' and on my screen appeared a photo of Adrian, sprawled on the floor, with his tongue hanging out of his mouth like a dog's, pretending to be dead.
I laughed and it was such a loud one, that even I didn't expect it, and I was glad I was alone. I recovered quickly but I found I couldn't get the grin off my face so I resigned, and let it stay.
'Bored to death. I see what you did there. But I'm not due for a visit until tomorrow. I have homework and an extra-credit project due next week.' I texted back, before I could stop myself.
I wasn't really supposed to be friends with Adrian. Just maintain a professional relationship. He wasn't really my problem while here in California. Jill was.
But she's bonded to him, so technically, he is your problem, nagged a voice in my head.
I sighed and placed my phone in my pocket. I needed some coffee to clear my head. But I wanted something a little more elaborate than my little coffee-maker could produce. So I pulled on my favourite pale-blue button-up and grabbed my car keys.
I checked on Jill, Angeline and Eddie and let them know I was going out for a quick coffee run. Eddie promised he'd be on extra-alert until I got back.
It wasn't hard to go off campus and go to the coffee shop, Spencer's. It was a Saturday evening, I was always going on coffee runs for Ms. Terwilliger, and the entire campus staff had all but nominated me for the title of Student of the Decade.
I could have told them I was going to detonate a bomb, for all they cared.
I hopped in my car and drove my usual route to Spencer's thinking about random things like colleges and architecture courses I had been researching online, even though those dreams were just that. Dreams. They had been killed before they even had the chance. Then my mind drifted slowly from college to Adrian.
Adrian could complain all he wanted, he didn't understand just how he lucky he was. Apart from Jill, he had the opportunity to walk away from it all and do or become anything. But if I had the choice, would I really want to leave them all behind? My fake family who I'd come to sort of care for?
I shook off these annoying thoughts and feelings and parked my car and headed inside.
The line wasn't terribly long, but it made me a little antsy to have to wait an extra five minutes to get my coffee. Trey wasn't working tonight, but a girl I didn't know was.
"A skinny vanilla latte, please," I said, once I had made it to the front.
"Coming right up," the girl said, cheerfully.
Even this girl. She was free to live her own life.
I took a seat at one of the tables in the shop, trying to think of anything else but that. I distracted myself with thoughts of Newton's Third Law and Archimedes' Principle and waited for my coffee.
But in the middle of all that, I lost my train of thought as my leg started to vibrate. I was confused for a split second before I realized it was my phone and immediately retrieved it from my pocket.
I made a silent prayer that it wasn't an emergency involving Jill, or the Alchemists would literally have my head. Suddenly, I regretted going out for coffee.
I gave a sigh of relief as my screen told me I had a new text from Adrian.
I hesitantly opened it and scanned through the message twice:
A project due NEXT WEEK, Sage. I can't be that terrible company that you'd put a project above me :( You could die next week, Sage. If you want a real project, come save me from this torture and hang out with me. Sonya has me and Dimitri cutting out pictures of flowers for her wedding and if I have to look at one more hydrangea or violet, I'm going to end up on the six o'clock news. Because I killed myself.
P.S- Congrats! Didn't think you'd get my joke. I took extra care to be shirtless just for you ;)
I went back to his previous text and selected 'Open' to view the photo he had sent me and sure enough, he was shirtless. I just hadn't scrolled down enough.
I must have been looking at that picture for longer than I intended to, because suddenly I heard someone practically screaming: "Skinny vanilla latte! Who ordered the skinny vanilla latte!"
I jumped up and headed to the counter, my cheeks burning as I felt everyone's eyes on me and came to the realization that she must have been yelling 'skinny vanilla latte' for some time now.
She handed me my drink and I paid for it and left for the safety of my car. At this point, I just wanted to head back to my dorm. But I took small sips of my piping-hot coffee and re-read Adrian's last text, yet again.
You could die next week, Sage. If you want a real project, come save me from this torture and hang out with me.
I sighed and started up my car, but this time, instead of heading back to school, I drove further down to a 24-hr Sonic and headed to the drive-thru.
"One large-sized Cherry slushie," I said, feeling idiotic for saying that out loud. I hadn't realized up until now what a weird and child-like word 'slushie' was. But Adrian seemed to really like it, so I wasn't all that surprised.
"But maybe I could switch to something slightly cheaper for a while. Like...slushes. Do you know how much I love those? Cherry, especially," Adrian had said.
So I collected the giant drink and headed to Adrian's.
I'm only doing this to be polite, I lied to myself. No other reason.
I sent a text to Adrian telling him to come outside. I stood patiently at the front door, holding the slushie awkwardly and hoping the neighbours wouldn't think something was wrong with me. I was after all standing outside someone's house holding a giant red drink, not ringing the doorbell or anything. Just waiting.
Finally, the door opened and Adrian emerged with the brightest smile I had seen on him in a long time.
"Sage, is that what I think it is?" he asked incredulously, eyeing the slushie. I saw his fangs in that bright smile, and my resolve faltered. He didn't seem to notice.
"Here, just take it, before I change my mind," I said, holding my arm out as far away from me as possible.
Adrian took the slushie, our hands brushing briefly, warmth flooding me but coldness too. His fangs set me on edge and I flinched and took a step back.
Adrian's smile fell, and his fangs were covered once more.
"Are you alright, Sage? You look a little pale," he said.
"I'm fine, I just need to get home before my coffee gets cold and I shouldn't be away from Jill," I replied.
"Right. Because she doesn't have Eddie, or Angeline, or the best school security in all of California. I'm surprised you're so intent on heading back to one of the evil creatures of the night," he said, using my term for Moroi. "I'm not good enough for you?"
"Would I have drove all the way down here and bought you a slushie?" I fired back. "This wasn't exactly a two-minute drive."
Adrian took a long sip of his Cherry slushie and watched me carefully. It gave me chills, but this time not because he was a vampire.
"A couple of minutes ago my answer would have been no, but here we are," Adrian finally responded, his voice dropping.
"Yeah, here we are. I find it funny how you practically begged me to come visit and then you stand there drinking your slushie and not saying a word. I'm not good at conversations, because once I get going-"
"It's usually about facts and history that everyone else finds boring and only someone like you would know," Adrian cut in.
"Someone like me?"
"Yes, Sage. Someone like you. Someone who wants to know everything and nothing, all at the same time."
And I could see the admiration clearly in Adrian's eyes.
And it was times like this that I remembered why I truly feared Adrian. It wasn't what he was -a slightly insane, blood-drinking Moroi- but who he was. Someone who made me do things, I didn't really want to. Feel things, I didn't really want to.
"I don't understand," I said, though my over-analytical mind had already deciphered exactly what Adrian had said. But I wanted -no needed- to hear it from him.
"You want to know everything about the world, you love learning, it's what you've been trained to do, but you don't want to learn about people. You don't want to learn about me. About how maybe, just maybe, I'm not the evil vampire you try to make me out to be. You want to pretend, Sage. That I'm here to hurt you. Than I can't be your...friend."
I didn't like the way he said 'friend'. Like it was just a convenient word. Like he was really finishing the rest of that sentence in his head. The way it was meant to be said but had been changed to suit something.
"You're right, we can't be friends. So maybe I should go," I told him, just realizing that in those last few moments, I had allowed him to invade my space. I could smell his usual cologne but this time, no clove cigarettes in the mix. It was overwhelming. In a good way. It made me want to snuggle close to him and wrap my arms around him.
Now those amazing, emerald-green eyes regarded me with wonder and slight amusement.
"Maybe? You've got to be more sure than that," Adrian smiled, without the fangs, and took another long sip of his slushie.
"Alright then. Well, I had a dream about you last night," I blurted, to keep the conversation going. I didn't want to leave for some strange reason. But it was true. I had dreamt about him. And last night hadn't been the first.
"Oh? Really?" Adrian asked, surprise written all over his face.
"You need to stay out of my dreams," I said defensively, crossing my arms. "I know all about your little magic dream-walking."
"I've only been in a spirit dream with you once, Sage. A long time ago. Besides, I know you hate our magic, so I've stayed away. I can literally see the fear in your eyes whenever one of us uses it," he said, looking rather pleased with himself. "But, I find it interesting that you've been having dreams about me on your own. What happens in these dreams? Because I've been dreaming about you too."
"I have to go," I insisted, though my legs didn't seem to be following through with that promise.
"Then by all means, go, Sage. You've already made my night."
So I slowly walked away, confused. This swirling feeling in the pit of my stomach.
"Goodbye, Adrian," I said, and he waved back to me. That small smile still on his face. And I wondered what amused him so much.
I didn't touch my coffee until I got home, so it was cold and I had to throw it out.
I started brewing a cup in my room, after once again checking on all my 'siblings'. I had also showered and put on my pyjamas, and even managed to finish an essay that was due on Monday.
As I sat reading a book, I heard my phone vibrating on my desk.
On impulse, I picked it up.
One new message.
I let out a breath I didn't even know I'd been holding.
Sweet dreams, Sydney. Don't let the evil creatures of the night get you. I'm sorry I scared you with my fangs earlier, but you surprised me. That's one of the nicest things anyone's ever done for me. And it probably only took you all of your nerves to do it. Thank You.
So he had noticed when I'd cringed at the sight of his fangs.
'One of the nicest things'. That seemed like a bit of a stretch, but I knew Adrian. He wasn't lying. He meant it. Which meant he thought I was his friend.
So I drank my cup of coffee and crawled into bed.
I read the text one more time before hitting the reply button.
But then I recognised that feeling. That feeling I was getting now and when I had been leaving Adrian's.
That swirling in my stomach that turned me inside out and made me want to scream to get it all out. Because surely, if I kept it inside, to myself. I'd burst.
But I didn't. I gathered all my strength and pushed it away.
This was wrong.
I didn't want to end up like Keith. Losing my mind in an Alchemist rehabilitation center.
For getting too close.
I had to keep myself safe from harm.
'DELETE ALL TEXT MESSAGES?' my phone asked, as if it too knew how unsure I was.
I paused for a scond, then selected YES.