Part 1: Chapter 15
When I arrived in my room, I was frustrated. I needed an outlet for this frustration. So many things were spiraling out of control. My friends were mad at me, I was experiencing strange things that a Guardian-in-training shouldn’t be experiencing, and I had no one to talk to about it. I was tired of no one believing me. I threw my bag on the ground and flung myself into the shower. I didn’t bother to strip off my clothes; I just walked right on into the tub.
The tears started flowing, mostly because I was frustrated and angry. I was mad at myself at first, but the more I cried, the more I became tired. I cried and cried some more. I was emotionally exhausted. I hadn’t slept much since I’d lost my memory, and the stress from having to deal with the amount of changes I was expected to handle perfectly, overwhelmed me. I sunk to my knees in the tub and eventually curled up into a ball as the water fell onto my body.
I wasn’t in danger of drowning, but at that moment I didn’t care, just as long as I was allowed to cry. My mind was so confused and messed up; I didn’t care about anything else. Everything came crashing down, the trauma and all of my feelings that I had taken care to bottle up nice and tight. No one would ever know I was suffering. No one would know that I was completely freaked out that day I awoke in class with no knowledge of who I was, and that I had been freaking out silently since that occasion.
I don’t know how long I lay in the shower. I didn’t care to get up and check the time. I just let the tears flow.
Soft hands reached around me and pulled my body out of the bath. I didn’t bother to look up and see the intruder or even ask how they entered my dorm without my permission. Whoever it was pulled me into their chest and tightened their arms around me.
I clutched at the person, not even knowing who they were. Someone was holding me, like I mattered in the world. Like they loved and cared about me. I curled into them, sobbing. I heard the water stop the second I was completely out of the tub. The fragrance that came with the water still lingered in the air, as it always did.
Eventually, I recovered myself and breathed normally again. I opened my eyes and stared out around me. I was in someone’s arms, but I didn’t know who. Trayen? Isla? No, I reminded myself that they were on Guard at the Shrine near the forest. Who else would be here? Who else cared?
The answer formed in my head as soon as I questioned myself. I stiffened at the prospect of it.
The stranger’s arms relaxed around me.
I didn’t move as I sensed what was happening. I was the object of affection for this guy. He loved me enough to know what was happening to me, to come and rescue myself from crumbling into complete depression. I relaxed again, knowing that I wanted him to always come to my rescue and that I was grateful that he did, even when I realized exactly who it was.
“Are you feeling better?” he whispered into my hair.
It was a quiet question but I heard it anyway. “Yes.” I was still crying, though silently now. Still, my voice squeaked a little.
“I saw what happened in the courtyard.” I squeezed my eyes shut. I didn’t want him witnessing that. I was almost suspended. I was insulted as well, because no one wanted to believe that I smelled something and followed the scent into the forest.
“I hoped no one saw that,” I whispered.
“I was outside when Staefan carried you from the forest.”
It was worse than I thought. The next few words confirmed my feelings.
“I wanted to know what was going on, so I listened in on the conversation. I saw that boy deliver a note to him. He backed off, but didn’t need to insult you further.”
So he had heard it all. Great. Just great. Somehow even though he heard what might go down in history as one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, I didn’t care that he knew of it. It didn’t bother me that much anymore. He didn’t make fun of me. He defended me.
“Why were you out so late?” he asked, curiosity ringing in his voice.
“I was looking for you,” I honestly stated. No point in lying to him, not that I could if I wanted to. He was someone I didn’t want to lie to.
“Ah,” he paused. “What about?”
“It doesn’t matter anymore.”
“It must obviously still be on your mind if you remembered. What did you want to ask me?”
I didn’t want to ruin the moment, but I asked it anyway. “I got to thinking, while I was riding horses earlier in Animal Studies. Trayen stirred up a lot of questions inside me about who I am. He mentioned the fact that Aralisa and I were accidentally switched; in fact, he compares me to her all the time. She should be in the Night class, and I should be in the Day. If I were, it might make this attraction to you be easier on me.” I stopped. I couldn’t believe I just let him know I liked him. I know I was blushing. I felt my cheeks redden with the warmth of my blood pumping to my head.
He obviously didn’t care or mind that I announced my feelings for him. He answered my unspoken question. “Aralisa. Is that what this is about?” He chuckled to himself. “Her personality has changed from what it used to be.”
“You liked her.”
“I do like her.”
My heart caught. He still liked her. Now what? I had spoken to him about my feelings, and here he was squashing them.
“But I like you more,” he added with as much feeling as he could put into the words. When he spoke about Aralisa, he was admiring her from afar. When he spoke about his attraction to me, he adored me. He was instantly devoted. I knew that without having to glance into his eyes. He continued on talking about her. “Aralisa was fun, but she could be mean. She was used to getting her way, about anything. No one really liked her, except me. That’s how she came to be good at archery. She wouldn’t learn the hand-to-hand combat that we learn as Day class students. She wanted to learn archery. As the Headmistress’ daughter, she got her way.”
He was stroking my wet hair. Thankfully it wasn’t tangled; it would’ve hurt. I still lay in his arms, curled up into his chest. I was wondering if I could stay here all day, and not go to class. Then an amusing thought entered my head. What did students do for recreation?
“Caiden,” I asked, speaking his name for the first time since he arrived, “What do students do for fun around here? Like recreation?”
“There are many activities. But mostly, the students keep to themselves or within their friend circles. Isla and Trayen are Guarding today, aren’t they?”
“They were earlier. I’m supposed to have magic class tonight, but I really don’t want to go. I feel like I need to have fun to some degree.”
“I know there’s a way to skip class. You must know of it. You’re here and not in it.”
“I have Fridays off.”
Okay, I didn’t know that. It still didn’t explain why he skipped almost every time I saw him. He was always out of bed, not within curfew, if there was such a thing. He was late on Wednesday when I saw him loitering near the gate to the courtyards. He knew of some excuse. After all, he used to run with Aralisa. She must’ve known all manner of excuses.
“You must know of something. Can Guardians get sick?”
“You don’t get sick.”
Great, there went my first excuse.
“I’m sorry to say, but you might have to go to magic class. It shouldn’t be that bad. Besides, you’ll see your friends there.”
Yeah, my friends. Right now I wasn’t so sure they wanted to be around me at all.
“They’ll forgive you,” he added. He knew what I was thinking. Then again he already knew that I was going to cry myself to sleep in the bathtub which is why he pulled me out of it. He knew me. It was a scary thought, for I didn’t know him. But I didn’t panic; I just let him hold me. In the back of my mind, it didn’t bother me that he was here. I felt like I knew a part of him from the first time I heard his voice. It was faintly there in the way that he talked, but now as he was here with me in my room, I felt connected to him differently than by voice alone. This connection went beyond the physical realm. I felt it in my heart, though I didn’t understand why.
“If you don’t go to class, they’ll send someone to look for you. It’s different if you’re late. If you don’t show up, then they can enter your dorm. It would be really bad if you had to explain to them how I ended up in here.” He laughed silently from some private joke.
“You could just say I let you in,” I responded, not quite thinking right.
“No, I’m a Day student. How would that look?”
“Dating’s discouraged. Not forbidden,” I repeated the words in my journal to him, justifying why he should stay here with me.
I knew he was smiling at me. “It doesn’t matter. Day students are not allowed into the dorms of the Night class, and vice versa.”
Oh. Um…yeah that wouldn’t be good. I bit my lip in thought. “You could just hide yourself. I’ll pretend to be asleep.”
He chuckled again. “No amount of cloaking could hide me from the ones who will come in here to look for you.”
“Then how did Aralisa get away with it?”
“I never knew the answer to that one. She has a different sort of power beyond the rest of us Shapers. She was manipulative at times.”
Great. He was determined I go to class. I had no choice. All I knew now was that I needed rest. I untangled myself and sat up. I stared into his face. His shirt was soaking wet from where I cradled up against him. I was still dripping wet in certain spots as well.
“I suppose I should go to bed if I am to go to class later.”
He smiled at me. He was so gorgeous. He stood up and offered me his hand. I grasped it as he pulled me into a standing position. I stared at him. All this time we were in here together and not once did he actively try to seduce me like he did the previous times I met him. He was patient. I fidgeted, not knowing how to thank him.
He reached up and caressed my face with his hand. His skin was still soft against mine. My heart was beating fast again. The blood was rushing to my cheeks as I knew I was blushing yet again.
“The more I get to know you, the more surprised I am.” Again, I heard the devotion behind those words. He didn’t just state them, he meant them.
He took a step closer to me. My breathing was quick for I did not know how to act at that moment. He leaned in and kissed me. I know my eyes closed before it happened. It wasn’t at all awkward as I thought it might be. It was soft and gentle, and I wanted him to kiss me more. He pulled away before I had time to react even though it felt like forever as our lips were locked.
I opened my eyes to question his reaction. He was still smiling. “I’ll wait for you to get dressed.” He dropped his hand. Turning around, he reached the door and walked out of it.
It took me a couple of seconds before my feet moved. I went into my closet and quickly changed into something more comfortable. I took a long look at some of the nightdresses and thought not to push it. I didn’t want to be a burden on the poor guy. Besides, it was sleep I was after, once he left the room, not anything else.
I settled for a pair of comfy pants and a tank top. I took the barrette out of my hair, and pulled my brush through it. I stared at my face in the mirror. I looked like I had just come back from a funeral. I was surprised that he had kissed me at all. I set my brush down on the table and stalked out of the closet and into my bedroom.
The drapes were shut, and I squinted in the low candlelight. He wasn’t in there.
Panicking, I walked into the sitting room, not spotting him there either. I turned around, not understanding why he would leave me alone so quickly when he said he would wait. I was walking towards my bed, about to fling myself into it, when he caught my arms and pulled me closer to his body in a comfortable embrace.
My panic subsided and was replaced with peace. I crumpled into him, but he caught me before I hit the floor and carried me to the bed. He lay beside me. As I put my head on his chest, I noticed that his shirt was gone. He must’ve hung it to dry somewhere. “I thought you left,” I croaked again. My voice was becoming hoarse.
“No, my love. I’m still here,” he whispered softly.
I loved the way he phrased that. I closed my eyes in the dark, savoring those words. My love. He loved me, but I already knew that. It didn’t bother me that I was doing something that would be considered forbidden if we were Initiated and Marked. It didn’t bother me that he was a Shaper and I was a Guardian. Nothing bothered me in that moment. Not even the fact that he had been with Aralisa and supposedly was dating Mirabella. All that mattered was that he was here with me.
I closed my eyes and slipped into a blissful state of sleep.