The next morning, I felt amazing. Nicholae, of course, was no longer beside me, he had gone in the night while I slept, but my pillow still smelt like him.
I got out of bed with a new excitement. Today I would go back to school, and the halls would no longer be haunted by the ghost of Stephen. My whole world was now alive with the hope of Nicholae. Last night I had told Nicholae that I loved him, and he loved me. I was in love, and the world was a wonderful place.
When Mom dropped me off at school, I went straight to the cafeteria without risking any consequences from Doyle; now that the competition had passed with success, there was no need for morning or afternoon practices anymore. I was free!
Amber, Robert and Reina greeted me. They regaled me with the exploit of their Halloween night, telling how they had all dressed up and gone to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Apparently Robert had had the best outfit.
“His corset fit him better than mine did,” Amber scoffed. “So how was your Halloween, Crimson?”
“Yeah, did you find anything fun to do in New York City?” Reina asked.
I wanted to tell them about Nicholae, but how I would I do it in a way that didn’t reveal too much but would also make sense?
“It was alright,” I said with a shrug. “And, um, I kinda met someone.”
“What? No way!” Robert said. “Tell us all about it!”
“What’s his name?” Reina asked.
“Nick,” I said, giving them the shorthand version he had given to my mother. They had all read the Nicholae novels, it would be too risky to tell them his full name.
“How did you meet him?” Amber asked.
I figured I might as well tell them the same story that my mother believed. It would be easier and safer that way.
“He was the one who found me in Madera Canyon and brought me back home,” I said. “We’ve been talking since then and when I came back from New York, we went out.”
“That’s fantastic!” Amber and Reina said together.
“What does he look like?” Robert asked. “I want to know everything from eye color to shoe size.” He winked at me.
“Ugh, Robert,” Reina scolded.
He and I laughed, and then I described Nicholae in detail for them. In truth, I could talk about Nicholae for hours.
The bell rang and we left for our first period classes. The school day breezed by. Things were just like they had been before I met Stephen. My friends were fun and carefree and now I was, too. I could get back to enjoying life, instead of wallowing in mourning…
Physics was the best class of the day. Actually, it usually was, but it was even more appealing today because the lecture was on astrophysics, my forte.
“…Molecules inside the gas cloud collide and, over time, start to rotate, as the gas continues to collapse and rise in temperature,” the teacher said as he drew explanatory doodles on the chalkboard. “When the temperature exceeds five million degrees Kelvin, it begins to fuse hydrogen and we can now say that it is a star. During the star’s lifetime, it will burn up all of its fuels, even reburning old elements to keep from further collapse, and eventually, the star becomes a supernova and explodes.”
A boy in the middle table raised his hand. “If all stars eventually die, won’t ours die too?”
“Indeed it will, but our star is a very long-lived star and won’t die for another five billion years. But then again, if mankind exists for that long, we’ll have more than that to worry about, because the Andromeda galaxy is due to collide with ours around that time.”
Wow. Five billion years. To think of time in terms of even centuries was a lot to wrap one’s mind around. Nicholae had lived two and a half centuries, and his friend Laramie had been around since the time of ancient Rome. But to think of time in terms of stars, billions of years, I couldn’t imagine all that one could see in such time. If mankind managed not to blow up the planet in World War III and found some way to use alternative fuels and such, the planet could be able to support life forever possibly, and Nicholae would be here as long as life was on this planet. It could be possible that Nicholae would still be alive in five billion years. And I was being given the option to exist forever alongside him. I could actually get to watch it happen, get to see our star explode, and humans might find some way around deep space travel by then.
What would I be if I lived that long? Five billion years! The earth itself had not even been around that long, and just look at how much it has changed. Nicholae was only two and a half centuries old, and his anatomy had changed greatly within that period of time. How would five billion years affect us? How would even a thousand change us? A year to me already seemed so long, and now I was looking at time without end, infinity.
It was a revelation! A few days ago, I could only hope to live for maybe sixty more years, not caring about the fate of anything else after my expiration. But now, I could see the full picture, the macrocosm of the universe. I could get some idea of true endlessness, life without death. It was mine to take if I wanted it, and at this current moment, it was mighty tempting.
Reina had hoped that she’d be able to come to my house after school so that we could tackle calculus together, but her mom called her and said she’d pick her up at school. I had to say that I wasn’t disappointed. When Reina came over, she usually stayed long into the night, and I didn’t want to have to share Nicholae with her. Was that silly?
So I walked home by myself and started on my homework. But I could focus, my mind kept wandering. I started thinking about Haley. I hadn’t talked to her in days. She must be wondering what happened. But I wasn’t ready to check my computer yet. What would I tell her? I couldn’t tell her the truth, definitely not. But, then again, Haley was my best friend. I should tell her everything just like I used to before. But then, I already knew what she would say. Something like I shouldn’t be going along with this, that it was far too dangerous to be in this kind of relationship, and I didn’t want to hear that. But didn’t I owe her something?
Cold hands lightly gripped my shoulders and I jumped up and screamed out of surprise.
I turned around and Nicholae was snickering behind me.
“That wasn’t funny!” I complained. “You could have given me a heart attack.”
“I’m sorry,” he chuckled. “But I couldn’t resist. It’s just so easy to sneak up on mortals.”
His face then became temperate and he gently lifted my chin up to kiss me. My heart melted and calm washed over me.
“What would you like to do tonight?” he asked.
I sighed and frowned. “I actually really need to finish this before anything else.” I tapped my pencil on the calculus homework in front of me.
“Alright,” he said. “I’d be happy to help you.”
“You know calculus?” I asked, surprised.
“When you become a vampire, a lot of things that are difficult for humans to learn become obvious to us, languages, math, technological applications,” he explained. “Let’s get started.”
We sat on my bed and worked on it together. He was such a better tutor than Stephen had been. He actually explained to me why I got the answer wrong and how to come to the correct one. He made it seem all so simple, so basic, and I was destitute to learn it.
But forty-five minutes into it, I got restless and my mind began to wander. I looked at what he was wearing today, perfectly snug black jeans and a t-shirt. He looked so good, and I found it difficult to focus on anything else.
Suddenly his face became tense and he disappeared from sight.
My bedroom door opened and Mom peeked inside. “How ya doing, kiddo?” she asked.
It took me a moment to reorient myself. “Um, fine. Just doing homework.”
She nodded. “Sorry I’m home so late, but things got swamped at work and I couldn’t leave. Did you already eat dinner?”
“No problem, Mom,” I said. “Yea, I scrounged up something.
“Alright, well I’m going to make up something for myself. Have fun with your homework.” She smiled then closed the door.
I looked around to see where Nicholae had hidden himself, but I couldn’t see him anywhere around my room.
“Up here,” I heard his voice from above me.
I looked up and he had his back flat against the ceiling, impossibly keeping himself aloft with his fingertips lightly digging into the popcorn ceiling. My mouth fell open in wonder.
In one swift, fluid motion, he glided down and landed his feet soundlessly on the floor.
“That was amazing!” I said. “And very clever.”
“Thank you,” he said and gave a theatrical bow. Then he reclaimed his spot next to me on the bed.
The rest of the week was just like that. Drifting through school during the day, working on my homework in the afternoon and part of the evening when Nicholae could help me, and then spending the rest of the night just enjoying his company.
On Friday, though, things took a turn. We were sitting on the bed joking around when my mom opened the door without knocking.
“Crimson—oh, Nicholae!” she said. “I didn’t know you were here.”
He paused the game and stood up. “Good evening, Samantha.”
“What’s up, Mom?” I asked, not liking that suspicious look on her face.
“Uh, yeah, there’s some guy here to see you,” she said, her tone getting more critical as she spoke.
“Really? Some guy from school?” I asked.
“I don’t think so, I’ve never seen him before. He’s in the living room.”
Then I heard the faint, angry rumbling coming from Nicholae’s throat. Now I was curious.
I went into the living room and saw a familiar blond-streaked boy standing in the middle of the room.
“Benny?” I said, shocked to see him.
“Hi Crimson,” he said, surprising me with a friendly hug.
Nicholae was fast at my side and glaring at Benny. He cleared his throat loudly as a signal to Benny to back off. Through the corner of my eye, I could see Mom suspiciously watching all this.
Let’s all just go out on the patio, before things get complicated, I thought clearly and loudly.
They both nodded.
“What do you want, Benny?” Nicholae asked harshly when we were safely outside.
“Well, I just happened to be in the neighborhood”—Nicholae and I raised our eyebrows at that—“and I thought I would drop in and say hello.”
“Well, you’ve said it, so you can leave now,” Nicholae said menacingly.
“Alright, in truth, I’m actually here to call your attention to something I’m surprised you haven’t noticed yet,” Benny said in such a friendly tone. “Consider this little tidbit a peace offering.”
“Noticed what?” Nicholae asked, irked.
“Crimson’s eyes,” Benny replied simply.
My eyes? I looked at Benny, then at Nicholae, and they were both staring at me now. Nicholae locked my eyes in his analytical gaze. Then his eyes widened and his brows flickered upward in trepidation. I didn’t like that look, not at all.
“What?” I asked, afraid. “What is it?”
Nicholae’s eyes flashed to Benny, all hostility gone.
“You really never noticed?” Benny said. “Amazing.”
“I-I had no idea!” Nicholae said defensively. “I was never really close enough to see her eyes before, and now that I’ve been with her this week, I’ve been so distracted by simply being with her that I just didn’t notice.”
“At first, I thought you knew, that it was part of your plan,” Benny said. “But it became very clear that neither of you had a clue.”
“Will someone please just tell me what the hell is going on!” I demanded.
“Why didn’t you tell me before?” Nicholae asked Benny, ignoring me.
“When? When you threatened to murder me in New York the other day? Oh yes, that would have worked out swell. ‘Why Nicki, what sharp teeth you have. Oh, and by the way, your girlfriend is an Amarant.’” He laughed.
“Amarant?” I echoed.
Nicholae checked his wristwatch.
“Crimson, do you think you would mind spending a long night with me?” he asked.
My caution was quickly turning into irritated intrigue. What was happening? “Sure, I guess. But, wha—?”
“Good.” He pulled out his cell phone. “Laramie, are you busy right now?” he asked into the phone with a serious tone. “Alright. I have a bit of a dire situation. I’m bringing Crimson over right now.” He closed the phone and replaced it in his pocket.
He closed his eyes and concentrated for a moment.
“Alright, you’re mom is going to bed, so we can leave without any obstacle,” he said.
“Nicki, do you mind if I join you?” Benny asked.
“Would it stop you if I did?” Nicholae said.
“No, but I wanted to be polite,” Benny said with a smile.
Nicholae scooped me into his arms, and the world around us became a blur.