I couldn’t believe it.
As quickly as the week had begun, it ended, leaving me on a warm Saturday morning with absolutely no chores, no work, and no vexing siblings complaining about breakfast.
The alarm clock on my beside was blinking, but I ignored it, favoring the delicious fingers of the sun kneading into my skin. I could feel my nightgown riding up my leg, exposing my plaid shorts, but I could’ve cared less. I was finally alone, with nobody bothering me, and with a short grasp of peace.
“So, this is love,” I murmured, the lids of my eyes fluttering open against the tender light streaming through my open curtains. The fabric swayed in the wind, rubbing against the nightstand beside my head.
“I wish I didn’t have to get up, but I do,” I mumbled, swiping my tongue over my lips. They tasted like iron, which reminded me of the bloody wound I had accidentally opened in my mouth. I guess that was what happened when you ate your food too quickly.
“Huh, Nikolai smells like blood, now that I think about it,” I thought out loud. “But then again, he’s a doctor. Of course, he would smell like blood.”
Even though the dark liquid was an odor than Nikolai emanated, he also carried the scent of incense sticks and lavender, a weird mix, but I wasn’t one to complain. It smelled divine, and if he smelled that wonderful, how would he taste?
No, Varsha. Don’t you dare think like that, I scolded myself, something I began to do more often to myself. He’s just a colleague...a very handsome colleague who you happen to have a date with later tonight.
I sighed, realizing that talking with myself would only sway my feelings on Nikolai, whatever they were. I wasn’t confident that what we had was already love. I didn’t even know what that felt like from anyone except Martin! And...my Dad, but that was a long time ago.
Wiggling my toes in the brisk winds that sifted through them, I hefted myself up from my bed and towards the bathroom beside my bed, finishing in the toilet so that I could look at myself in the mirror.
What does Nikolai see? I thought. Maybe it was just my bedhead, or because I had just woken up, but I couldn’t find anything attractive about myself, not now, and not ever.
Reflecting back at me was a tired, middle-aged looking girl with tangled black hair, dull blue eyes, pink cheeks, and the remains of depression pills evident on her skin. I saw a girl who had suffered years of abuse, of maltreatment, of living, just to give her family a life she didn’t have. Call me selfish, but was it wrong to want something, after so long? Was it wrong that I craved Nikolai’s attention, no matter how much I wanted to deny him. I had baggage. I had problems.
I didn’t have answers.
In a way, I felt like I was in a high school stereotype book. Like I was the nerdy girl that got swept off her feet by the bad boy to live their happily ever after.
That never happened.
It was all a dream. True love...happily ever afters...they didn’t exist. Not in my story. I was a notebook, waiting to be finished. I wasn’t a fairytale.
The more I thought about it, the angrier I got, fueling the fire in my chest. What once sputtered under Nikolai’s ruby eyes now roared with the pity I felt for myself. I worked so hard to make everyone in my life happy, and what did I get in return?
But I liked it that way, I suppose. It was the way I was meant to live, and that wasn’t going to change, whether Nikolai came into my life or not. I doubted he would even stay, if he wanted.
Nikolai was...perfect. Handsome, suave, rich, who wouldn’t want him as a husband? Love or not, Nikolai was the coveted boy of Bloodhill, and everybody knew that, even if they were new. Russian, doctor, ideal, he was gold.
And I wasn’t.
A part of me refused to tumble back down depression lane, forcing my mind to complete my morning tasks and prepare breakfast. To canter after Paris and Martin to get ready for their soccer practice or volunteer work. To act as if everything was normal, and that nothing was going on.
Even if something was.
I splashed the icy water onto my warm skin, my mind reeling from the cold feeling of the liquid. Any thoughts of my appearance were washed away, Nikolai’s charming image replacing the void in my mind.
I could vividly see every feature of him, which startled me slightly, making me think if I was being stalkerish by how detailed the sketch in my mind was of him.
Snow white skin and chiseled features. Bulky arms and tight clothes. Smooth, pink lips, and glimmering red eyes. A wonderful aroma and frosty touch. No wonder I shivered so much around him.
“He certainly his handsome,” I thought, tossing the face-towel onto the sink. “Wonder who he gets it from?”
That brought a small chuckle out of my sealed lips, lightening my damp mood before I made my way back to my room, picking out a light outfit. Shopping with Amara usually gave me an extra pound or so just by the amount of things she bought for me (things I denied every time we went out together, might I add).
Buttoning the blouse up to the cleavage of my chest, I slipped on my jeans and brushed my hair as quick as I could, racing down the steps to the kitchen. Paris and Martin were already seated at the island, one on her phone, the other playing with orange scraps.
“Did you guys eat breakfast?” I asked, brushing the hair that fell onto my eyelids.
“Not yet. We were waiting for you,” Paris answered absent-mindedly.
“Yeah...but then I got hungry, so I took an orange,” Martin added, sounding sheepish.
I smiled. “That’s okay. You guys didn’t have to wait for me.”
“We didn’t, but we wanted to,” Paris rebuted, setting her phone down gently on the countertop. “Erm, we didn’t want to set the smoke-alarm off again, so we decided to stay out of making breakfast...or anything, for the matter.”
Giggling, I shook my head. “It’s okay. I’ve got cereal and pancakes from yesterday. What are you guys doing today?”
“I’ve got soccer practice until after the carnival,” Martin said.
“And I have a date with Daniel today,” Paris said.
“Today? I thought it wasn’t for a week or so?” I asked, not surprised, but not expecting the date to be so early, either.
Paris blushed. “He...he said he couldn’t wait to see me...”
I grinned. “Aww, he sounds very sweet.”
“Yeah, almost too sweet!” Martin grimaced, sticking his tongue out. Paris glared at him, and I slid a bowl to him, laughing.
“Well, when you find a boyfriend of your own, Martin, you’ll understand how Paris feels,” I chided, patting him gently on the shoulder.
“What about Doctor Romanoff?” Martin questioned, stirring his spoon in the bowl. “What do you feel for him?”
“He’s...interesting,” I replied. “I’m not completely sure if what I feel for him is love, but I definitely feel something with him, y’know?” I studied them. “Do you mind?”
“About what?” Paris asked.
“That I might start dating someone?”
“Absolutely not,” Martin said. “Varsha, all we want for you is to be happy. You make us happy all the time! Why can’t you be happy either?”
“Martin’s right,” Paris concurred. “Sure, he may be Bloodhill’s hottest doctor and may have that bad boy persona, but that’s always attracted you, hasn’t it?”
“It’s never ended well,” I grumbled, clenching the dishtowel in my hands.
Paris shrugged. “Well, you never know until you try. And, sure, he may smoke, and he may be elusive, but that’s what makes it fun! It’s your own personal mystery with rewards along the way!”
“Oh, you know,” Paris waved her hand aimlessly. “Hugging, kissing, making-out, that sort of stuff.” Then, she smirked. “And Doctor Romanoff definitely seems like the type of guy who’d fuck a girl as a reward.”
“I doubt it,” I said, although I could feel heat rise to my cheeks. Quickly, I grabbed a glass of water that had been filling by the sink, pressing the ice against my chest to cool the heat that had raised inside of me. Something warm circulated between my thighs, something new and...different.
Paris eyed me with a smirk, as if she knew what was going inside of my body. “Well, he does seem like that type to me, but all we can do is wait, right? Take it step by step, sis. Right, Martin?”
“Hm? Uh...yeah, sure. Whatever she said,” Martin replied, his eyes glued to the flickering screen of his phone. Paris made a face at him, and I choked on my drink.
“I’m gonna head out, now,” she said, clearing her side of the table and placing her plates in the sink. “Have fun with Amara, and later, with Nikolai, Varsha!”
She rounded the table, giving me a quick squeeze around my waist before dashing up the steps. I didn’t even get a chance to hug her back or say goodbye before she was dressed and out of the house.
I watched her go. “I swear, she changes as quickly as cartoon characters do.”
“Hm...” Martin hummed. “Yeah, sure.” He turned his phone off, dropping the device on it’s face and pushing his bowl towards the center of the table, by the tissue holder. “Varsha? Can I ask you something?”
“Sure. What’s up?” I asked, taking his bowl and opening the tap water.
“About Nikolai...I mean, I don’t mind that he smokes or anything but...I don’t know. Isn’t there something a bit odd about him?”
“Odd?” I peered over my shoulder to look at Martin, his blue eyes sparkling. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, a quiet, civil guy who keeps to himself, has freakishly pale skin and red eyes? Doesn’t that strike you as odd?”
“No, not really,” I answered. “He could be wearing contacts, and the pale skin could just be a condition. It’s nothing to be worried about, Martin. I’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, but what if he’s a vampire?” Martin hissed conspiratorily, bending his head low on he table even though we were the only two in the house.
I rolled my eyes, scoffing. “Martin, you read too many reddit articles. Vampires don’t exist. And while it would be amazing to be romanced by a Vampire, I think I’d rather stick with Nikolai, for now.” I rounded the table, squeezing his rounded shoulders. “I don’t know what you’re thinking in that congested brain of yours, but I’ll be fine. Paris will be home before four, and I should be back by eight.”
“You won’t...do anything...you know?” Martin asked, shuffling on his seat. He looked queasy, biting his lip just as I did.
I shook my head. “No. It’s a first date, Martin. Nobody does that on a first date.” I kissed his cheek. “And I know Nikolai. He respects my boundaries. He’s never done anything to make me uncomfortable before.”
“He probably just wasn’t high enough,” Martin grumbled. “And you’ve only known him for two days!”
“I’ve known him ever since we moved to Bloodhill,” I corrected. “We just didn’t speak a lot to each other, that’s all.” I furrowed my eyebrows. “Why are you so nervous? It’s not like you’re going on a date.”
Martin remained quiet for a few moments, then sighed, his chest dropping significantly. “I-I just don’t want you to date a jerk, you know? You’re my older sister, and I love you. I want you to have the best relationship. After everything you do for us, you really deserve the best, Varsha, and I want to make sure that Nikolai is the one for you.”
“Well, I don’t know about the one, but he does treat me well, Martin.” I ruffled his hair. “If anything happens, you’ll be the first to know, deal?”
Martin looked away for a couple of seconds, then smiled, leaning against my shoulder and nodding.
“I think you should go with the black dress,” Amara said, picking the article from it’s hanger and inspecting the fabric against her skin.
I chuckled, observing the summer dresses out of the corner of my eye. “Don’t you think black is a bit too...inviting on a first date? And to a carnival?”
“No,” Amara replied blankly. “Black shows your attraction for him—!”
“And lust, in case you forgot why all seductresses wear black,” I interjected, smoothing my hand over a blush pink dress by my hip. It felt like velvet, just like Nikolai’s shirt.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” she grumbled. “Maybe Paris will like this better than you would. I heard she got a boyfriend.”
“Even she’s not sure yet,” I said. “It’s just a date so far. Hopefully, if she does date Daniel, her attitude will take a different path, no?”
“It should,” Amara agreed. She blew a strand of blonde hair out of her face, her golden eyes trailing along the pattern of the dress I was holding. “Paris is a nice girl. She just has a large ego, that’s all.”
“She does. In any case, though, Martin’ll be will you and Omen throughout the day. Paris should be home by four,” I said.
Amara nodded, plucking the dress from the rack. “Sure, got it.” She held it in front of me, her wolfish eyes studying the appearance on my thin frame. “Don’t worry about them today, Varsha. Just enjoy your date with Nikolai. Enjoy the lights, the games, the food. Enjoy him."
I smiled in agreement, but her words from before still rattled inside my mind, tumbling out of my lips.
“Why did you tell me to be careful of Nikolai?” I asked. “I know you said some things happened to him, but why should I worry?”
Amara faltered for a second, her eyes flashing in the dim light of the shop we were in. Her throat bobbed and her muscles contracted, her grip on the dress tightening.
“Nikolai’s had...a difficult life before Bloodhill,” she said vaguely. “And so have you. You may compliment each other, but you’re from two completely different worlds, Varsha. It’s not the fact that he smokes or anything. I’m only...” she broke off, sighing. “Just be careful. Soon, you’ll understand what I’m trying to say, but for now, just enjoy your night with him, ’kay?”
She smiled at me, and despite the tug of my heart that something wasn’t right, I found myself smiling with her, accepting the dress she handed to me.
“Sure, I will,” I agreed. “And, you know, it doesn’t bother me that you guys smoke, right?”
“I know,” Amara said. She winked at me. “If I didn’t, I never would have introduced you to my favorite cigarette pack, would I?”
I laughed. “No, probably not.” I clutched the metal hanger. “Um, is it wrong of me to say that seeing Nikolai smoke is kind of hot?”
A loud, booming laugh left Amara’s dark lips, her mouth curling like a predator, a wolf-like smile. “No, not at all! I actually knew that you’d find that aspect of him attractive!”
“Well, there’s that, and other things too!” I denied sharply, my voice squeaky with denial.
Amara shook her head fondly, leading me to the next shop with her bulky arm around my shoulders. “Sure there is, Varsha.”
“There is,” I repeated, firmer than before. “Nikolai draws me to him in a way that I can’t even explain, Amara. And it scares me. It scares me that he can captivate me so easily. It’s like his eyes are hypnotizing me, or something!” I giggled. “You know what Martin even said this morning?”
“He said that Nikolai could be a vampire!” I revealed, expecting Amara to laugh with me.
Instead, her eyebrows furrowed, her lips pursing and eyes narrowing. “He did?” She asked. “Why did he say that? Did Nikolai do something?”
I frowned. “No. He just said his skin and eyes were like a vampire. I thought it was funny...” I looked at her, grimacing when she flinched, her skin brushing against the silver racks by her side. “Why?”
“No reason.” Amara said, sternly but quickly. “I just—Nevermind.” She turned away for a moment, then turned back at me, smiling and showing off her row of sparkly white teeth, two of her incisors scarily sharp. “How about we go look at some shoes? Hm? Try some sandals on?”
I quietly agreed with her, letting her lead me towards the shops she favored and listening to her rant about the patients we recently had.
I let her say anything she wanted.
But I knew she was hiding something.
The carnival was in town.
Every year, as a way to unite small towns in rural Illinois, the local cities set up carnivals in the smaller towns to bring more families together, more fun, more games...
That was all a load of shit.
What they really used the carnival for, was money.
Because there were many children that visited the rides and games yearly, prices for the tokens and other toys had risen, and because it was the only alternative to spending thousands of dollars vacationing in New York or Hawaii, almost every family in the neighboring towns came to Bloodhill—
—to waste money.
Usually, whenever I came with Martin and Paris, I would watch them play and run around, carrying cotten candy and all the toys they had won, their tokens trailing behind them. I used to be jealous of them. They always had all the fun, and I couldn’t because I was chaperoning.
But now, it was my turn.
I stood by the Ferris wheel, tapping my foot anxiously. The colorful carts swung above me, the wheel spinning slowly. Above me, I could hear children (but mostly parents) screaming their lungs out. It didn’t frighten me, though. I loved the Ferris wheel. It brought back memories of Paris and Martin as small kids. It reminded me of when I would hold them on my lap, console them that everything would be okay and that I would always be there for them, no matter what happened.
I missed those days.
A brush of cold wind passed by my neck and I shivered, a wave of nostalgia storming through me.
A cold hand covered my eyes.
“You are a very prompt lady, Varsha,” Nikolai’s cool voice murmured in my ear, his lips tantalizingly close to my neck. His teeth brushed against the sensitive skin there, and I trembled in his arms. He wasn’t wearing his lab coat, from what I could feel. His skin was smooth and soft, just like a babies.
“And you are fashionably late,” I replied, biting my lip.
Nikolai chuckled, a deep and seductive purr in my ear. “I suppose I am. I apologize. I am usually a very prompt person. Ah...something came up last minute that I needed to attend.”
I shrugged, and he released me from the embrace of his warm arms. “That’s okay. I know what it’s like to have a lot on your plate.”
I tucked some of my hair behind my ear, allowing Nikolai to hold my hand as he led me into the line for the Ferrsi wheel. His touch was icy, but grounding, the callouses on his palm rough and sending tingles through my body.
“Do you mind if I hold your hand?” He asked, his voice once again enveloped by his rich accent. “I have not been on a...date in a long time. I suppose I’ve forgotten what the proper etiquette is for occasions like these.”
“That’s okay,” I assured. “I’ve definitely never been on a date before...and you can most definitely hold my hand.”
Nikolai smiled, bringing my hand up and kissing the pulse thumping there, his surprisingly sharp teeth scraping against the plump vein there. “Thank you.”
We stood in silence for a while after that, looking at each other out of the corner of our eyes. I could tell he was checking me out again, his dark blood eyes trailing over my smooth hair, to the dress that clung to my sides, to the painted toe-nails on my feet.
I too, studied him. It was the first time that I had seen him without his medical uniform on, and he looked completely different.
Well, maybe not completely. He still wore his khaki pants, but this time, they were a dark grey color instead of the beige they usually were. He wore a plain blue shirt, the muscles he was rumoured to have lined underneath the thin fabric. His pale skin glowed in the rising moonlight, a few howls echoing from the forest around us. And if I didn’t know any better, I would’ve said that his eyes were glowing.
“Have a good ride,” the man at the ticket line said, smiling and nodding at Nikolai and I. I blushed. I bet he thought that we were a couple going to have a romantic moment at the top of the Ferris wheel...which I guess wasn’t technically a lie, but we weren’t a couple.
God, I wish, though.
I don’t know what clicked inside of me. Just this morning, I was denying anything that had to do with a romantic relationship with Nikolai. Now, as we sat next to each other in the cart and the Ferris wheel began to move, I felt my stomach jumping, my heart thrashing in my chest. They say whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But what about whatever happens in the Ferris wheel?
“Look at the view,” Nikolai murmured, the sudden warmth from his head retracting to my shoulders. I felt my body pressed up against his, and I breathed heavily, smiling.
“It is a beautiful view,” I agreed, gazing at the sunset as it crawled underneath the horizon, the moon rising higher and higher into the dark blue sky above us. The stars winked around us, the Ferris wheel traveling in a slow circle. Below us, children ran around to different games and adults chattered amicably, the glow of the lights swallowing the ground below us.
“I have seen many beautiful things in my lifetime,” Nikolai mused, turning to look at me. His red eyes glimmered in the damp light, drawing me closer to him. He cupped my chin. “But you, you outshine all of them...all of them...”
I swallowed, blushing and trying to look at my toes. “Um, thank you, Nikolai. I—I think that you’re very handsome, too.”
Nikolai laughed, a deep, baritone of a laugh. “Thank you, Varsha. Coming from you, that is all I need to feel for you all over again.”
I bit my lip, a smile pulling on my shy lips. “What do you mean?”
He smiled, brushing his thumb over my lips. The cart jostled, but we didn’t move, out bodies barely inches apart. “Ever since I saw you, Varsha, I felt something about you. Something...it drew me to you. Made me want...” he looked away, whispering. “Want you, so badly.”
“Nikolai...” I felt like my breath had been taken away, a shocker to me. I didn’t know what I was feeling, but deep down, I knew I could relate exactly to Nikolai’s words. The pull to him was so strong, so powerful—
—but was it just the pull?
I think Nikolai couldn’t sensed what I was thinking, for he leaned closer to me, his lips a breath away from mine.
“Don’t ever think that it was just this weird pull that made me ask you out,” he murmured. “I...like you, a lot, Varsha.”
“You like me?” I asked. “Even though I have so many problems in my life? Even though I have siblings to take care of?”
Nikolai nodded resoutley, not even pausing once to think. “Yes. I don’t care about that. God, I’d help you, even! I—I just want a chance...”
“A chance?” I questioned.
Nikolai’s lips quirked. “Are you going to make me say everything out loud, Varsha?” He tsked, but there was an amusing undertone under it. “I want a chance with you. I—I want a chance to be with you...what do they call it...boyfriend?”
I blinked at him. “Y-You want to be...my boyfriend? Wait, you want me to be your girlfriend?”
Nikolai nodded. “Yes, I do.” His thumb drew around my cheeks. “I very much do.”
Nikolai didn’t let me speak, and I couldn’t speak—
—because he kissed me.
His lips molded with mine, the feel of them icy against my warm mouth. He held my face in his hands, holding me against him as the Ferris wheel stood still at the top. The moon was right above us, the crowds gazing at the large attraction.
When I closed my eyes, feeling and basking in the sensation of Nikolai’s cool lips, I felt him add more pressure to my lips, his teeth pressing against the top of my mouth. My heartbeat increased, but it was just the two of us, and our kiss. Nobody else.
Nikolai pulled away, but it was only for a second before he started kissing me again, this time with more vigor. It was like he was...he was...
I let him, closing my eyes once again. The cart rocked with our sudden movement, but none of us cared about it.
Nikolai wrapped his arms around my waist, tugging me onto his lap. I let my hands weave into his thick locks of hair, tugging him closer. Against my better judgement, a moan left my mouth, and despite this being my first kiss, I felt like I knew how to move, like it was a dance Nikolai and I only knew the steps to.
He smirked against my lips, his fingers just tipping the belt of my dress. He tugged my rugged ponytail, and by now, I was straddling him, out lips at it once again.
His tongue swiped my mouth, and in my gasp, I had accidentally given him access to my open mouth, but it wasn’t a mistake. He eagerly explored me, and while it was only a short French kiss, it still felt like it lasted ages—
—and I loved it.
"Varsha," Nikolai gasped. It wasn’t a question, though, and our lips stayed on each other, ice on fire, lust on love.
Was this love?
Even as the Ferris wheel began to move again, Nikolai and I stayed in our fierce lip-lock, holding each other tightly. Something hard pressed against my pelvic area, but I ignored the pulsing feeling between my thighs. This was still our first date, my first kiss. I didn’t want to rush into something I’d later regret.
Just as Nikolai’s lips pressed against mine again, intent on keeping our passion steady until we reached the ground, something made us break apart, a sound so shrill, so loud that I found myself gripping onto his shirt in surprise, but also in fear. He was up with a start, his eyes weirdly reflecting in the bright moonlight.