(c)2011 Christopher Jayawardena
Night’s veil fell across the college, covering it in a chilling wind that bore through flesh into bone. Now the path she was on was in an entirely new world, made of shadows instead of light. She shivered with it, feeling the sudden change and hating it.
This place… night didn’t come on slow in a smooth shift here. It truly fell as if a shadow dropped on the world, shutting out the warmth. Her arms clutched tight to her body, the wind seeming to pass through into her heart and lungs.
She walked, not fast but firm, towards her car. She hated that heap of junk, made for Blue Mages so it was always colder on the inside than outside. Although the café was perhaps a little closer, maybe she could stop in before jumping into the chillmobile. Get a hot coffee for the studies ahead, maybe a donut since she desired sweet. That would warm her… Damn it was cold now. Why had she not chosen Red Mage as her major, again? Oh right. Because she liked picking pockets and planning heists, that’s why.
The car was within view now, but her feet had changed direction. Her face turned from the ride home and forced her to look at the bright neon name, “Gibbous Moon.” Pale light, gentle yet luminous, began to grow in strength across her body as she reached the door. She pulled the handle, feeling it shudder and resist. Her eyebrow cocked. Locked?
She looked inside for any sign of the usual blonde barista, but could find none. The café was empty. “Scheisse,” she spoke, feeling a twinge of guilt at using the word her grandfather scolded her for. Another glance, still no one. But there, on the counter straight ahead by the cash register… a single cup. Steaming hot coffee. Able to practically smell it now, she moaned inwardly. Oh, torture.
Then she instinctively felt on the door handle, finding the keyhole just beneath. Wicked thought came to mind, as it was when she was alone. She stole peeks around her, finding nothing but the cold black shadows at the edges of the café’s light. A moment and the lock’s restraint was a memory. She slipped inside.
It wasn’t warm inside. She still shivered, held her body tight, and walked over to the cup of steaming coffee. She reached a chilled hand to it and grabbed its handle, pulling it up towards her lips. Head leaned down; she sipped and felt its black heat seep into her body, bringing with it a wave of satisfaction.
Oh hell, yes.
She took another sip, slow at first, then faster. Her body rejuvenated by the liquid. It was over quick and she placed it down on the saucer it had been sitting on originally. It was now that on it she saw a small note, message clear as day to her eyes, “In the back, please help take to a fresh one.” Again her eyebrow cocked, wondering if the blonde barista was trying to drug her as part of a fraternity initiation. Eyes inspected the donuts, seeing a fresh batch on display. She put down the cup and turned towards the door.
“Oh! You’re not going to have one?” His voice made her stop and her eyes cautiously turned over her shoulder. There he was again.
She’d seen him so many times, yet never after hours. But here he was, not at all looking like a hip happenin’ college student working at the campus café. His hair was sprayed up and his eyes had thick black eye shadow. Around his neck was a black choker with silver spikes. His whole look screamed, “I love the 1980s.” The creep-o-meter was a little higher than she could stand and she turned back to the door. But his voice said again, “wait!” It was a small cry, hurried and young. Something about it felt safe, but she listened to the adrenaline in her veins and pushed the door open out into the night air.
A shivering gasp and she felt the cold again. It was horrible. Enveloping her again, even with that cup of coffee in her belly. She looked at her car as she walked again in its direction, dreading the even worse cold to come. Her teeth chattered without her say and her muscles stiffened. She shook her head to try and warm the neck, but no avail. Damn this college and its magic night, damn the jerk boys and the idiot girls, and damn those teachers who thought classes just before night were exciting because of their dangerous nature. And most of all damn those pigs that slept with you and then left you because you couldn’t support them during finals! Damn them, one and all!
Her thoughts of anger interrupted. It had to have been more than ten or twelve steps from the door, but she felt him instantly appear behind her. A black cloak enveloped her and he pulled her body to his. As the veil of night was cold and alone, his cloak was warm and intimate. She felt his life force strong, so strong. It pulsed not only with his blood but his magic, deep and old as the tall trees in the college’s quad. He spoke softly in her ear; just tall enough his lips brushed the point. The voice was still so kind, how could she be this afraid?
“Please. I’ve watched you every week passing by, on this night, in this cold.”
Oh great, now he’s creepier.
“You always had friends before. Those who loved you and laughed with you.”
Thanks for reminding me of what I lost.
“And that guy, who kissed you sweetly. But… I heard he left you.”
You like tearing out hearts, you bastard?
“You’re so alone, running to your car at night. But I saw you walking this way-”
… and now you want to drug me and bring me to your fellow-
“I just wanted to hold you. I wanted to tell you I love you.”
What? Her heart gave a thump at the shock. His hand touched hers, fingers gentle.
“When I’m bored, I listen to the conversations outside. I heard yours.”
She shivered in his arms. His thumb stroked her hand; a tender gesture she had always wanted to receive but no one had ever given it to her. Had he really listened?
“I didn’t need to. Nobody did, practically every one who passed could see it. He wanted the cold and not your warmth.”
She sniffled now. The memories still hurt, sometimes the echoes of the aftermath more than the event itself. She lowered her head, feeling the black cloak against her face. Even that was warm.
“I wept for you.”
She sobbed. He held her. She felt his thumb stop on her hand and she took it in her hand, squeezing it firmly. He nuzzled into her hair, his breath trembling with emotion.
“I’m so sorry, Day.”
Her tears fell on his skin, which to her surprise was quite strong and calloused. She felt the scar where he’d given lifeblood to the Goddess of Shadow, but it was not as big as it was supposed to be. It took a moment to realize that the scar was recent. Only a few months… it just enough to be shortly after that day, when it all changed. The realization dawned and she cried and he held her. His own tears joined hers, mingling together. She held his hands, holding him back now.
“Why did he leave me?”
“Because he’s a fool.”
She shook her head, only to have it kissed in response. The touch of his lips on the right side of her gave a glowing warmth and peace through her mind. The emotions balanced and another few touches of him, she was calm now.
“Come on,” he said, “let’s get you home.”
He carried her, although she wasn’t sure how. His energy bent space to change the air around them, allowing free movement in whatever direction he pleased. She was first apprehensive, wondering still if she had fallen into the dark night that would be her last. Yet his voice still carried its soft tone and sang a lullaby.
She smiled, remembering the nametag that he wore at the café, which confused her given his beautiful blonde hair and conflicted with her own name.
Notes: When I started this plan, I was talking to my friend, Eleanore Woods. We had been talking about how I needed to get back to writing again (she's a writer also) and over time I came up with the idea of just pumping out one page of something. Never intending to finish, but just a page. I asked her for input about an idea to go from and she asked "pick a number randomly between 1 and 3" - I said "3" Then her question was, "now pick a random letter." "L." "Okay, write me a love story." This was the result. It developed in a lot of weird ways and could have taken a lot of strange directions. But hey, I like it. I may re-edit this for publishing at some later point. ~C.