The Amarant

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Chapter 22

I didn’t wake up on Sunday until past noon. I vaguely remembered my mother coming in to check on me earlier, but there was no way I was going to get out of bed then.

I sat up in bed and stared at the black television, rubbing sleep out of my eyes and pondering whether or not to just stay in this room all day and do nothing but daydream till nightfall. Being in that brothel last night, a place devoted to sex and filled with vampires, had made me come to a decision on two issues. One, I was ready to make love to Nicholae. We had been holding off, taking it slow, but I couldn’t quite remember why anymore. I wanted him so badly, and I was absolutely, head-over-heels, no-turning-back in love with him. Which brought me to my next decision: I wanted to be immortal with him. We both knew for a while that it was going to be that way, that it was what I wanted, but I hadn’t finalized it, out loud or in my own head, and he hadn’t brought it up. So tonight, I would make both my wishes known. Tonight, we were going to have sex. Oh, just the thought of it, writhing under him in pleasure, made me melt deeper into my lust-filled stupor.

Halfway through the day, my stomach got the better of me, as it often did, and I got dressed in fresh clothes. As I reached for my shoes, I saw a small pot on the drawer right in front of the window containing a single large red rose. The instant I saw it, I recognized the potent fragrance from Laramie’s greenhouse.

This was one of his flowers, a vampire rose! He must have brought it over after I fell asleep. How sweet of him. I automatically fell in love with it, leaning in to get a strong whiff. Ah, my very own vampire.

I pulled on my shoes, then went into the hallway.

Reina, Amber and Robert were sitting in the living room, watching TV as Mom was making noise in the kitchen.

“Hi, Crimson!” Reina said cheerfully, waving fervently.

“See, told ya she was still alive,” Robert joked to Amber, nudging her with his elbow. “We thought you might have just dropped off the face of the earth since you haven’t hung out with us in so long.” It was a joke and an accusation in one.

“Oh…sorry about that,” I said, nervously rubbing the back of my neck. “I guess I have been a little preoccupied lately.”

“Yeah, and we came over here yesterday to hang out with you, but you weren’t even here,” Amber said. “Your mom said you were spending the day out with ‘Nick.’” She rolled her eyes at his name.

“What’s the deal, Crim?” Robert asked. “Have you forgotten about us?”

I wanted to say no, but the truth was that I had.

“I’m sorry, guys,” I said. “But we can hang out today.”

They were quiet for a minute, looking like vultures waiting for me to feign weakness so they could strike.

“You must really like this guy,” Amber muttered. “You’ve been seeing him for how long now, and you haven’t even introduced us to him!”

“Yeah, what’s up with that?” Robert said.

“Oh, you want to meet him?” I stammered.

“Duh,” Amber and Robert chorused.

“Me, too,” Reina said, but without their cynicism.

I hadn’t expected anything like this. And to be honest, I never planned to introduce them. Nicholae was a whole different world from my high school life. He was my secret escape, my fantasy world. But I could understand where this was coming from in their case. If one of them, say Amber, had started dissing me to spend all her time with a guy I didn’t know, I’d be acting the same way. I’d want to meet whoever the guy was and make sure he was okay, that he was good enough. And the fact that I knew Nicholae was perfect didn’t change that sororital instinct.

“Alright, um…I’m pretty sure he’s coming over tonight, so…you guys can meet him then,” I said reluctantly.

“Cool,” Reina said.

“Wait, so you spent all of last week and the entire day yesterday with him, and he’s coming over again?” Robert skepticized.

“They’re inseperable,” Mom chimed in from the kitchen. “Do you guys want lunch? I’ll make you some sandwiches.”

“Cool, thanks, Mom,” I said, ignoring her comment.

After we finished eating, we went to my room and watched TV, played video games and cards, just like the old days.

“So when is he supposed to come over?” Reina asked.

“I’m not sure,” I answered, trying to act nonchalant. “Should be soon.”

I jumped at the sound of a knock on the front door and almost fell off the bed. I composed myself in front of my friends, then went into the living room with them close behind me.

Mom opened the door and let Nicholae in.

“Hi, Samantha,” he greeted, tipping his head to her.

“Hello, again,” she said. I didn’t like the way she said “again.”

He put a large flat box on the arm of the couch and came further into the living room to hug me.

“These are my friends,” I said. “They wanted to meet you. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Of course not,” he said. “I would love to meet your friends.”

He turned to them with his winning smile. “Hello,” he said.

“This is Amber, Reina and Robert,” I introduced.

I could see their appreciation for his appearance on each of their faces, especially Robert’s.

“Nice to meet you all,” Nicholae said.

They smiled and mumbled at him like dazed fools, and I felt embarrassed; did I look like that when I looked at him?

“Crimson, I have a surprise for you,” he said once the greetings were exchanged.

He beckoned me to the long box he’d placed on the couch by the door.

“What is it?” I asked suspiciously.

“Just open it,” he urged.

I looked at my friends behind me, and they were just staring, wondering, like me, what spoils lay inside the box. Even Mom was watching.

Finally, I slipped my fingers under the corners of the box and lifted the top off. I pulled back the two thin layers of tissue paper to unveil a gorgeous, shiny black leather jacket, with cute little buckles and a sharp lapel. I pulled it out of the box with my mouth falling open.

“Wow, it’s gorgeous!” I squealed.

“Try it on,” he said.

I pushed my arms through it and shrugged into it until it was comfortable. It gave me a thrill just feeling it around me, snug around my torso.

“Perfect,” he said.

“Isn’t this cool, Mom?” I said as I ran past her to the full-length mirror against the wall.

“Yeah,” she said. “That’s very sweet of you, Nick.”

Satisfied with my reflection, I skipped back to him and kissed his cheek.

“Thank you,” I said. “I love it.”

“Ah, but this is only part one of your surprise,” he said. Then he held up a key and jingled it in the air. He kept it there till I took it with awed fingers.

I looked at the key in my hand, and he nodded toward the door.

Amber, Robert, Reina and Mom rushed out the door ahead of me.

When I stepped out onto the carport, I was paralyzed by the sight of a burnished silver motorcycle parked on the curb. It was the very same Ninja I had worked all summer for but never got.

All of a sudden, all the dreaming and yearning of the summer months erupted from me and I ran to the glorious vehicle, screaming like a star-crazed girl and jumping up and down. I could tell that my neighbors were staring at me like I was a lunatic, but I didn’t care! This was the coolest, most awesome thing in the whole world!!

My friends slowly closed in after me, admiring the pristine bike.

“Wow, he must be loaded,” Robert whispered as he touched the handlebar.

Amber and Reina nodded in speechless agreement.

“What do you think of it?” Nicholae asked, walking casually down the carport with a content smile.

“I love it!” I ran to him and jumped into his arms, kissing his face all over and not caring that my mother was watching. “Thank you, thank you!”

He laughed merrily and set me back down on the pavement.

“Isn’t this a little too extravagant?” Mom asked him with her arms folded over her chest, the total authority figure.

“Mother,” I grumbled.

“Perhaps,” Nicholae said. “But I have all this money, might as well put it to some good use. And besides, Crimson’s wanted this for a long time. She’s earned it.”

“But what about insurance?” Mom asked.

“All taken care of,” Nicholae answered.

That certainly took her by surprise. She didn’t look thrilled, to say the least.

“Samantha, I promise everything will be fine,” he said to her, and her face softened as she looked at him—which I suspected was another one of his little mental tricks. “Crimson will be completely safe. I would never get her something if I thought it might hurt her.”

She nodded and even smiled. Then she went down to the curb to inspect it. She started asking Nicholae all kinds of technical questions: how many miles did it get to the gallon, how fast could it go, what kind of engine did it have, etc. As they talked back and forth, she started to look less concerned and even a little pleased at the fact that he had made such a huge gesture for me; she didn’t know the half of it.

“So, you ready to take it out for a ride?” he asked.

“Yes!” I replied, kicking the stand and throwing my leg over the seat.

He got on behind me and slipped his arms under mine to wrap them snuggly around my waist—that felt really nice, having him so close, but it might prove to be a safety hazard.

He chuckled softly against my ear at my thought. “Don’t worry,” he whispered so quietly that only I could have heard. “I won’t let us crash.”

I put the keys into the ignition and revved the bike to life. With a raptor’s roar, it surged to life, pulsating under me. It had been over a year since I was last on a bike, and that one hadn’t had half the power this one did. This was going to be fun!

“Ready?” I asked Nicholae.

He tightened his arms in response.

“Later, guys!” I howled, kicking the clutch into drive and squeezing on the gas.

The bike sped into the road so easily and quickly with my overzealous flush of fuel, I had to press my legs against the bike for fear that it might fly out from under me.

I came to a sharp, abrupt halt at the corner of my street, stomping my foot on the street uncertainly.

“Careful,” Nicholae said.

“Sorry, it’s been a long time,” I defended. “I guess I’m not quite used to driving it yet.”

I checked both sides of the road to make sure there were no cars coming. Then I squeezed the gas again slowly and turned onto Waverly Avenue, a long strait stretch of residential road that had very little traffic. And as I drove down the road, I couldn’t help giving more and more gas.

The speed was addictive. The wind ripped at my hair and face, and I welcomed it with vigor, leaning into it, flattening against the bike as much as Nicholae’s arms would allow. It felt like flying! It was completely different from being carried by Nicholae as he ran with his immortal speed. Here, I had full control over how fast I went, full control over turning and stopping and going wherever I want. The control was liberating!

I pressed the bike faster and faster, noting that the dial on the speedometer was inching around to 70. I could feel the batty smile on my face, but I didn’t care.

By the time I realized that I was coming up to the elementary school, it was too late, even as the little yellow reflectors were winking at me from the rising road. We hit the speed bump at full force, propelling into the air.

I screamed wildly as the tires departed from the asphalt and soared feet over the ground—now this was really flying, woohoo!!

It seemed we were up forever, as if gravity had laxed in its duties, forgotten us altogether. But finally the bike descended and we bounced roughly back onto the road.

I gripped the breaks and we skid to a shrieking stop, leaving black tire burns in the road and almost falling over sideways. Once I had straightened the bike upright, I slumped my shoulders and started laughing, air thrusting out of my lungs in excited, nervous spasms. I felt like Mr. Hyde, finally set free from Dr. Jekyll. Free and powerful, no more chains!!

Nicholae didn’t say anything to my maniacal laughter. He kept his hands lightly at my hips as if holding me up from falling over. So like him, to stay calm when I was on the verge of a bacchanal.

I wanted so much more! I wanted to go everywhere! Hell, I could even drive to Phoenix. I could drive across the country, and no one could stop me! I could leave now and not have to answer to anyone!!

“What about me?” Nicholae asked in an unthreatened tone, pulling me closer to him.

“You’d be forced to come with me, of course,” I said. I stretched my neck back so that I could kiss his cheek.

When I withdrew, my eyes found his, and I became hopelessly lost in his stare again. Such beautiful, impossible indigo eyes. This was where I wanted to be, in his eyes. There was comfort, security, promise, eternity…

A loud horn shocked me out of his spell. We both looked behind us to see a car impatiently waiting just a few feet behind.

I flashed the driver a wicked smile, then snapped my face forward and gripped the gas, forcing us to bullet forward like a horse that had just been branded.

We finally got back home and I tried to be as quiet as I could when I stopped the bike on the curb. We walked quietly up to the door and went inside. I knew my friends must have gone home a while ago. I hoped they weren’t too mad at me for ditching them like that.

But when I stepped inside, they were all still there, Reina laying on the couch and Amber and Robert crouched on the floor and laughing softly at some cartoon.

“Oh,” I said as the front door closed behind me.

Their three heads turned at the same time.

“You’re finally back,” Amber said.

“Did you have fun?” Reina asked.

I went to sit by her on the couch, and Nicholae kept hold of my hand and followed me.

“Yeah, it was awesome!” I answered. “That bike was so worth the wait.”

“And, as a guy, even if I am gay, I feel it’s my responsibility to tell you that you look totally hot on that motorcycle,” Robert said.

I laughed. “Thanks.” I looked around. “Where’s my mom?”

“She went to her room already,” Amber said. “She said it was cool if we stayed and waited for you.”

“But, dang, you were gone for a long ass time!” Robert said. “Where’d you guys go? China?”

“No, we only made it halfway,” Nicholae joked.

They laughed.

They hung around for about a half hour more, then decided to call it a night since tomorrow was a school day. Amber, Robert and Reina got up and came to hug me. Then I walked them to the door.

“See you guys tomorrow,” I waved, then shut the door. Now Nicholae and I were alone.

I turned around at looked at him. I’d had a completely different plan for this night, but now it was late and I was too tired to do this the way I wanted to. I closed off my mind to him so that he wouldn’t know what I was thinking—I wanted to be able to surprise him with an intimate night when the time was right.

He patted the spot on the couch next to him and I strolled across the living room to sit there.

“Nicholae, where do you go during the day,” I asked. “Where do you sleep?”

“I have an apartment nearby,” he answered.

“Maybe some night, we can hang out there instead of here,” I suggested as casually as I could.

He didn’t need to be a mind reader to see where I was going with this. I saw a slight change in his face that said he knew my motive for a new locale.

“Sure,” he said.

“Maybe next weekend, when I have no other responsibilities,” I said.

“It’s a date.”

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