Fear and Sorrow
The raven-haired freshman slid open the door to Tarje’s hospital room, stepping out into the quiet, barren hallway. The walls were painted the brightest white he’d ever seen. So bright in fact, that Aaron could almost see the beams of light bouncing off the pristine surface. Down the corridor was a tall, dark-haired boy and a shorter, blue-haired girl. Together, they conversed with a red-headed woman. She tried her best to hide her concern over a layer of professionalism. Unfortunately for her, the sense was so strong that Aaron could practically see it radiate off of her. The pair attempted to assure her, of what, the boy didn’t know. However, as he got closer, he had a feeling they were talking about him.
“Can you tell me what happened?” The woman asked the dark-haired student directly. He said nothing and simply looked to Natsumi. The woman sighed. “Come on Alex, give me something. He’s my student, which means he’s my responsibility.” “We’ll take the blame if anyone tries to get you in trouble, Mrs. Hara. There’s no need to worry.” Natsumi was calm, comforting, but Mrs. Hara was accepting none of her guidance. “That’s not what I’m concerned about, Ms. Kobayashi. I talked with the nurse and she told me he was stabbed in the abdomen with a knife. You can’t tell me, as Aaron’s teacher, not to be concerned when I hear that.” She paused to pass her suspicious glare between the two students. “Now, is anyone going to tell me how a first year managed to sustain that type of injury on campus? Was there a fight? This is important information.”
Aaron stopped as he stumbled upon the conversation. He was a bit reluctant to interrupt, given that the topic was about him, but he felt awkward listening to people talk about him like he wasn’t standing within earshot. “Mrs. Hara?” The conversing was halted and all eyes turned to him. That only served to make him feel more uncomfortable. “Aaron.” The boy’s teacher breathed out a sigh of relief. “Are you alright? Shouldn’t you be resting?” The teacher passed Alex and Natsumi to converse with her student. Aaron looked down at his waist, where a silver dagger had been mere hours beforehand, and now, only bandages remained. “Yeah, it already heal-” The boy caught himself when he realized who he was talking to. “...It’s gotten a lot better.” The raven-haired boy gave Mrs. Hara a small, reassuring smile, but that didn’t ease her rigid expression.
After a moment of silence, she sighed and place a hand on her hip. “You should tell your mother that, she’s been worried sick about you. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so many messages from one person.” Mrs. Hara’s eyes fell to the ground as she shook her head in disbelief. The tone in her voice portrayed her annoyance. An embarrassed chuckle escaped the boy. “Yeah, sorry about that. My mom’s quite a handful.” Mrs. Hara nodded in agreement and swung her eyes up to meet Aaron’s. “Just, promise me you’ll give her a call before she loses her mind.” The raven-haired boy smiled. “Will do.” His teacher returned the bright grin. “Good. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to have a word with Nurse Kiriga. I hope you feel better soon.” She put a hand around his shoulder in a comforting manner. Aaron bowed his head slightly. “Thank you.” With that, Mrs. Sasaco Hara stepped passed the freshman and continued her way down the corridor.
“Speaking of your mother,” Aaron turned to face the dark-haired boy that towered over him. As always, his amber eyes were stern, but gentle. In his outstretched hand was a red smartphone. “Take this. It already has Emilia’s number, as well as your mother’s. You can thank Natsumi for that.” The boy’s azure orbs panned to the girl next to them, who gave him her best, brightest smile. He then turned back to Alex, silent for a moment. “You’re giving me a phone?” The confusion in Aaron’s tone made Natsumi’s smile drop to a frown. “Yes.” Alex responded, his arm still placed between them. “Why?” Now, both the upperclassmen shared a gaze of confusion as they looked at each other. “Because you needed one. You did want to replace your old one, right?” Natsumi asked. “Well yeah, but I didn’t expect you to pay for it. How much was that?” Alex grinned. He understood why the boy was concerned now. “Don’t worry about it, you don’t have to repay me. Just take it.” Aaron looked at the phone again. There was temptation in his eyes, but also hesitation. “What’s wrong?” “I don’t feel right accepting this without repaying you and I don’t think I can afford that.” Natsumi smiled too with new found understanding. “What if we tell you it’s a gift,” she asked. “Will that make you feel better?” Aaron hesitated. “I guess?” “Then, it’s a gift.” Alex replied. The raven-haired freshman glanced from Natsumi to Alex before sighing. Aaron pocketed the phone, his stubbornness defeated.
The boy stared at the ground, letting his vision blend with the polished tiles. As the shapes morphed around his blurred view, his mind began to wander. For reasons beyond his understanding, he was drawn back to the events of the previous night. Feelings of confusion, anger, pain, regret, all swirled around his head as his memories played in reverse. Despite how real those moments felt, Aaron couldn’t shake the feeling that he was either having the worst nightmare of his life, or that he’d been in a coma since Celeste attacked him. Everything seemed like a weird, funhouse-style replica of his former life. None of this was real, that was what his rational mind was telling him. However, that thought was broken by a stern voice, scolding him for trying to separate himself from reality...Tarje, he could tell by the venomous tone.
Those two ideas battled it out inside Aaron’s mind until thoughts themselves became exhausting. This war had been going on in the background since he woke up in Alex’s bedroom. The boy never really had time to focus on it until this moment. Now, they were front and center. His brain begged him to choose, to put an end to the madness. Is this real, or some messed up fantasy? Both options seemed equally plausible and that’s what made the war zone so destructive. The azure-eyed boy tried to clear this storm of thoughts, to keep himself from going insane, but he couldn’t fully push them away. They were still there on the sidelines. Aaron knew this would never end if he played the bystander.
Fortunately, Aaron was saved from having to make such a hard decision as the metal doors to the elevator squeaked open. The sound brought him out of his head, something he desperately needed. Alex shuffled into the contraption, his attention was drawn to the phone in his hands. Natsumi stood next to him with a tired, but happy smile. The boy came in after them and the doors slid closed. Aaron moved to the back, but stopped when a wave nausea rocked his stomach. His vision shook, which only made the feeling worse, and pain pounded against his temples. The raven-haired boy’s knees lost all energy they once had and Aaron was forced to lean against the wall to keep himself up right.
Natsumi noticed his strange behavior and quickly wrapped her arm around his arm to steady him. “Aaron, are you alright?” From the look in her chocolate eyes, she instantly knew something was wrong. Wanting to avoid going back to the infirmary, the raven nodded. “Yeah...I’m fine.” The girl frowned. She didn’t appreciate his weak lie. Natsumi put a hand to his forehead. Her skin sizzled against his. “You’re burning up.” She said with narrow eyes. Despite his condition, Aaron continued to try to convince her nothing was wrong. He wasn’t entirely sure why at this point. He didn’t like her worrying so much about him. “I told you, I’m fine.” Aaron feigned a smile. Natsumi didn’t appreciate that either. “You’re the worst liar I’ve ever met.” He dropped the smile. “It’s not-” the freshman halted his words as Natsumi raised her palm to him. “There’s no use keeping this up. Even the most unaware human could tell immediately that something’s wrong with you.” Natsumi unbuttoned the very top of her blouse and brushed her hair to one side of her face, exposing her neck. A familiar, restricting feeling returned to Aaron’s chest and with it, that thought again littered his mind. He backed away until he couldn’t any more. “Um, what are you doing?” “Helping you, it’s what I do.” She stepped closer. “Can’t you find a way to help me that’s less...weird?” The girl sighed, “Well, you refuse to drink human blood and you can’t process synthetic. You’re out of options.” She stepped closer again. Now, she was mere inches from him. “Natsumi...” Aaron’s voice was soft as he began to sense a thick, toxic cloud of anger surrounding her. Natsumi’s sweet, lighthearted attitude was gone, replaced with determination and frustration-filled eyes. She held her hand out for him as her fingers sharpened to bluish points. They pierced through Aaron’s shirt, into his rib cage.
His fever flared as blood filled his lungs. He began a fit of painful coughs as Natsumi removed her weaponized hand. Aaron’s knees gave way and he fell into her. She caught him before he hit the ground, positioning his head on her neck. Innocent, crystal eyes turned to hungry crimson orbs. His body, changing its primary objective to survival, took over. His teeth ripped through Natsumi’s neck, gushing blood into his mouth. The girl remained strong, steady. She moved her fingers through his knotted, ebony hair for comfort. “Don’t make me do that again. I hated it.” She pleaded quietly.
Aaron took a minute to regain his composer, as well as his sanity. When he did so, he backed himself into the corner of the elevator, a confused yet fiery glare crossed his azure eyes. “Was that really necessary?” The boy asked, wiping the blood from his mouth. Natsumi put a hand on her hip and stared Aaron down. “Do you feel better?” Her voice portrayed genuine concern. His glare deepened. “Yes, but that’s not the point-” “I’m not gonna let you turtore yourself. It’s my job to keep you safe. Just ask Alex,” The slender girl with the teal pigtails gestured to the taller, dark haired boy behind her. He remained silent, his auburn eyes glued to the phone in his hands. Nat spun around to face him. “Alex?” Still no response. Her caramel eyes narrowed. “Alexandru Tepes!” That seemed to get his attention as his amber eyes glanced up from his phone to her. There was a glaze of innocence and confusion in his eyes.
Natsumi frowned. “You weren’t paying attention, were you?” “Did you say something?” Alex asked as he quickly transferred his gaze from Nat to his phone and back to her. “I’m sorry, I guess I wasn’t listening.” The blue-haired girl let out a huff of annoyance. She folded her arms over her chest. “What’s going on with you today? You’re usually so attentive.” Alexandru remained quiet again. He looked as if he wanted to speak, to get whatever it was off his chest, but his eyes were overtaken with a subtle fear, the kind that paralyzed your thinking. Aaron recognized this fear. He’d been long accustomed to it, but seeing it infect someone which such a seemingly indestructible appearance was frightening.
Aaron took a step towards the boy. “Alex?” His soft voice was buried in concern. Alex took a deep breath and stuffed his phone in his pocket. When he looked up to meet the boy’s sapphire eyes, all traces of fear were gone, hidden again under his emotional barrier. “Are you feeling better?” Aaron was so taken aback by this sudden change that he was stunned into incomplete silence. “Um...” Was all his mind could muster. Alex stepped closer to the boy until he was towing over him. He placed a rough, yet warm hand on the side of Aaron’s face, staring deeply into his azure eyes. “It seems you have an especially bad reaction to synthetic blood. Since you refuse to change, your only choice now is blood taken from the living, wherever that be vampire or animal. You shouldn’t demonize Natsumi, she’s just doing what’s best for you.” “Wait, so you were paying attention?” The girl chimed in. “I was, I just had...other things that needed my focus.” “Like what?” Natsumi asked with a hint of concern. As soon as she asked this, the doors to the elevator slid open, revealing a lavish lobby. From the way Alex strolled out of the metal box, it was clear he never intended to answer her question.
The brown-eyed girl glanced up at Aaron, as if he had the answer to her question. He simply shrugged as he followed her and Alex into the courtyard. Natsumi grasped the small, wooden handle of the black umbrella that laid against the entryway. She fanned out the top lifted it above to shield their delegate skin from the smoldering sun. They walked quietly behind Alex, who seemed to be preoccupied with his thoughts. So preoccupied, in fact, that he didn’t seem to be connected with the reality around him.
Aaron looked around the courtyard from the safety of Natsumi’s umbrella. It was a beautiful day. There was barely a cloud in the sky to block the rays of light as they fell down on the oceans of the blues, reds, and pinks that made up the Verde-Trinity garden. That’s when he saw the large cherry blossom that marked the center of campus. The delicate pink swayed peacefully in the wind. The scene brought him back to the night he met Alex, and that made an uneasy feeling form in his stomach. He glanced to the tall Romanian in front of him. His posture was as straight as ever and his shoulders were calm, rigid. Despite this, Aaron could sense the chaotic aura surrounding him. He was scared. The boy took a closer look into his amber eyes as he stared out into space. He saw the emotion swirl in those orbs. It was something he couldn’t hide. No, he wasn’t scared. He was terrified. Of what, Aaron couldn’t even begin to comprehend. What kind of hellish force would scare a stoic vampire prince with powers beyond imagine? Perhaps it had something to do with the text he was obsessing over for several minutes.
Aaron turned back to great tree, attempting to ignore the anxiety he felt. At the base of the mighty trunk, sat two freshmen girls conversing quietly with each other. One had short, curly, honey golden hair and light emerald eyes, framed with bright crimson glasses. The other seemed to be taller than the first by an inch or two, with hazel orbs and long chocolate brown hair, tied into a simple ponytail. They both wore frowns and seemed exhausted. Aaron stopped and gently grabbed the metal stick of the umbrella. Without words, Natsumi released her grasp and followed him to blossoming tree.
As they got closer, they were able to overhear their conversation. “What did you get?” The blonde asked. The brunette sighed and looked down at the piece of paper in her hands. “89...all that studying and I get an 89...I’m hopeless.” Her chin sank into her blouse. “That’s better than my score...I don’t even want to say it out-loud.” The glasses-clad blondie turned her paper around. At the top right, was a 85, written in red ink. The hazel-eyed girl pat her friend on the back. “Man, Adeline is gonna kill me.”
“I highly doubt my mom is gonna stress over you getting a passing grade. You’re a good student, Emi.” The two jumped at the sudden male voice. Emi looked up to Aaron and Natsumi standing over them. He smiled as his crystal eyes met hers. “She’ll be too mad at me to worry about you.” She smiled back and stood up to hug him. Natsumi grabbed the umbrella so he wouldn’t jostle it. “Honey, try not to be to too hard on her. You know how hesitant she was sending us here. The last thing she needs is her son making trouble.” “It’s not like I try to make her angry.” He said, wrapping her arms around her small torso. She pulled away to glare up at him. “Sometimes, I think you do.” Aaron laughed nervously, thinking of all the trouble he’s been in just in the last few days alone. “Anyway, you’re really smart. Don’t let one grade tell you otherwise.” He smiled, changing the subject.
“Well, hello there handsome.” Confused, the boy turned to Emi’s companion. She gave him a strangely mischievous grin as she fixed her sliding glasses and put out her hand. “I’m Yoko Okada and you are?” She waited eagerly for a response. “Aaron Van Roosen. My boyfriend. Don’t you remember? You’ve already met him.” Emi said, matter-of-factly. Yoko dropped her arm and frowned. “Oh yeah...bummer.” She whispered the last part under her breath. Emi patted her back. “Yeah, sorry. You’re a couple years too late.” Yoko crosses her arms. “Well, better you than those girls.” She glared at a pack of high class freshmen girls. Then didn’t seem particularly mean, but she seemed to have a grudge against them.
“Hey, Natsumi.” Emi said with a wave. “Thanks for the phone. Aaron would’ve totally forgotten to buy a replacement.” Natsumi gave the freshmen her brightest smile. “No problem.” Emi turned to Yoko to have a more private conversation.
“Speaking of which.” Aaron muttered to himself as he pulled the crimson encased phone out of his pocket. He thought he remembered it buzzed while in the elevator, but he was too preoccupied at the time to answer it. As he powered it on, a wave of dread washed over him. “You ok?” Natsumi noticed his boy tense and peered over his shoulder. His azure eyes darkened with a potent grief, an emotion she’d never seen before on Aaron’s face before. The boy looked up and stared at his girlfriend’s back. “Emi...” She turned around, curious. “Is today...the anniversary?” Emi’s personality suddenly shifted. She was no longer her smiling self. “Yes...” she said with a sad, distant smile. She looked up, to the confusion of Yoko and Natsumi. “Today is the 6th year anniversary of our fathers’ death.”