Part 2: Chapter 8
There were a lot of people awake in the dorms. I had to creep in with my camouflage turned on so they wouldn’t see me at times. It took about half an hour to reach Aralisa’s room. I walked in and heard the shower going. I poked my head into the bedroom, but she wasn’t there.
And then I heard her crying. I should’ve left and let one of her friends handle it, but I didn’t listen to my head. I had long since given that up after seeing Trayen yell at her. I walked into the bathroom, trying to locate where she was. The sound was coming from the bathtub, but I couldn’t see her.
I approached and noticed she was curled up in the bottom, with the water rising. It was a miracle that she hadn’t drowned herself yet. I reached in and grabbed her body. I pulled her out of the tub and into my lap.
She didn’t stop me. She just kept crying. I knew that she was headed into this direction, after the lecture she was given. I sent the image to Branella, hoping she understood what was happening.
Staefan’s lecture was harsh, I stated to her.
I’m sorry. She paused. Looks like she’s not afraid of you.
I guess we’ll find out when she snaps out of it.
You’re taking a chance that she’ll want nothing to do with you.
I thought about what she meant. I know. But I didn’t care. Aralisa needed someone right now. She needed to be comforted, and she needed to cry. She needed that outlet as I was beginning to see the stress of what she dealt with breaking through.
I held her tightly as she clutched at me. She curled towards my body and began to sob harder.
I wondered if she knew it was me, or if she even cared? We stayed like that for an hour or two. Finally, her sobs quieted and she relaxed a bit.
I noticed the change when she was back to her normal self, or the one I was getting used to. She stiffened against me and I relaxed my arms around her to let her know I meant no harm to her. She could get up and run away from me if she wanted to.
But as quickly as she stiffened, she relaxed again, into my chest. She didn’t want to be away from me. Yet, I knew that she didn’t mind me being in here with her. I laid my head on hers and whispered, “Are you feeling better?”
“Yes,” she sniffled.
I needed to explain myself, about why I was here. “I saw what happened in the courtyard.” I held my breath for the yelling she should give me.
“I hoped no one saw that.” She sounded embarrassed.
She wasn’t yelling, so far. “I was outside when Staefan carried you from the forest. I wanted to know what was going on, so I listened in on the conversation. I saw the boy deliver a note to him. He backed off, but he didn’t need to insult you further.” I resolved to keep Asper’s name out of this.
She didn’t respond to me.
“Why were you out so late?” I asked her, wanting to know the reason why she ran into the forest.
“I was looking for you.”
My heart skipped a beat, or two. She was looking for me? Whatever for? “Ah. What about?”
“It doesn’t matter anymore.”
She was still sad, but clearly it was on her mind. “It must obviously still be on your mind if you remembered. What did you want to ask me?” I really wanted to know why she was looking for me. It intrigued me.
She sighed and rushed it all out. “I got to thinking while I was riding horses earlier in animal studies. Trayen stirred up a lot of questions inside of 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.” She stopped talking suddenly. I smiled.
She likes me. She really does like me. That hope was becoming brighter and brighter now. The magnetic string that held me in place when we were near became tighter. I didn’t want to ever let her go. I wanted her to be here with me, forever.
If only she knew about her past. She would always be Aralisa to me, even if her personality was different now. “Aralisa, is that what this is about?” I half laughed at the thought of her being jealous of herself. “Her personality has changed from what it used to be.”
“You liked her.”
“I do like her.”
She didn’t respond. She seemed a little distant. She wasn’t ready to know about her alternate ego, but I felt like I needed to share some of it with her, about why I like her so much more now than I used to. It would help her later on. “But I like you more. 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.”
My hand reached up to comb through her hair. It felt different, not because it was wet, but because this was a different experience for me. She never used to let me touch her at all, unless we were in bed together.
“Caiden?” she asked me. Her voice was beautiful as she sounded my name out. “What do students do for fun around here? Like recreation?”
She wanted to know what they did for fun? I tried to not laugh. “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?” I knew this.
“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 Friday’s off.” Which was true.
“You must know of something,” she tried again. “Can Guardians get sick?”
“You don’t get sick.” She didn’t. I never remembered her being sick. Ever. “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.”
She didn’t respond to my statement. I figured that she thought they were mad at her from today’s earlier events. “They’ll forgive you.” I hoped that they would. I knew that Isla might. Trayen I was unsure of. “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.” I chuckled, remembering how I escaped several times prior.
“You could just say I let you in,” she responded to my sentence.
I couldn’t believe my ears. She didn’t even think like a Night student. “No, I’m a Day student. How would that look?” I reminded her.
“Dating’s discouraged, not forbidden.”
I smiled. She had read the chapter, and memorized it too. “It doesn’t matter. Day students are not allowed into the dorms of the Night class, and vice versa.”
She waited a moment before answering. She was still coming up with excuses. “You could just hide yourself. I’ll pretend to be asleep.”
I laughed again. “No amount of cloaking could hide me from the ones who will come in here to look for you.” I wanted to be with her all day, but I knew that Hasten and Staefan would appear in the door if she didn’t show up at all. I couldn’t blow my cover now. I had to protect her. I was dedicated.
“Then how did Aralisa get away with it?”
I didn’t answer her right away. I knew we got away with it because we were in the Day class then. It was different. “I never knew the answer to that one. She had a different sort of power beyond the rest of us Shapers. She was manipulative at times.” Which was true again.
I remembered a time when we were both in the shower together, for we were skipping class. She pushed me down into the bathtub and used magic to shield herself from the prying eyes. She screamed at Hasten as he began to walk in on us. Staefan never made it into the bathroom. She complained about running out of shampoo and bath oils before they walked out of the dorm.
They bought her lie too easily. No one else could pull that off. I knew that others had tried. Mir even tried it at one time, but it didn’t work for her like it did with Aralisa.
She leaned away from me and sat up straight. “I suppose I should go to bed if I am to go to class.” I stood up and offered her my hand, happy that she was not making excuses anymore. She took it and I helped pull her up to stand.
Her face swiveled around to stare at me. She didn’t move, but just stared. It was different this time, the way she stared at me. There wasn’t any of the tease or the manipulation in her eyes. It was gone and replaced with curiosity. She had never been curious about me before. She never wanted to know who I was inside.
She fidgeted again, but I reached up to stroke her cheek. She blushed from my touch. “The more I get to know you, the more surprised I am,” I whispered the words with sincere devotion, because I was devoted to her. I wanted her to know that. I understood in that moment what Nola meant about her bond with Panter. Only this time, they were my words. I only had eyes for her, for Aralisa. She was beautiful to me in a way no one else compared with.
I was taking one chance after another. I expected her to run from me, to slap me, to push me away, scream in terror. But those things never happened. I leaned in to kiss her gently. I wanted to deepen the kiss, but I thought better about it. I didn’t want her to hate me too much, so I ended it.
I leaned away and smiled. She was staring at me, wanting to know why I broke the kiss. “I’ll wait for you to get dressed.” I turned around and left the bathroom. I didn’t want her to be embarrassed or frightened by my presence.
I walked into her bedroom and shut the drapes along the windows. It was incredibly sunny outside for being nine in the morning. Soon, it was dark again inside the room. The candles on the wall lit at my touch, providing a soft dim glow. I slid my shirt off. It was still wet as I lay it across the seating area of the bay window.
She had come out of the bedroom and didn’t notice where I was standing. She glanced into the sitting room, looking for me. I came up behind her as she walked towards her bed and pulled her towards me. She didn’t panic nor did she push me away. She let me embrace her.
I wasn’t holding her all but about two seconds when her strength finally gave out and she almost fainted. I caught her and swept her up and into the bed. I lay beside her, as her head rested on my chest. I stroked her hair, hoping that she would go to sleep, knowing she needed it.
“I thought you left,” she whispered to me.
Her breathing was becoming even now. I knew she was finally relaxing. “No, my love. I’m still here,” I whispered into her ear. I kissed her head as she finally fell asleep.
I wanted to rest with her all day, but I was afraid that Staefan would come to look for her. She needed to be up and in class, instead of being here with me.
Hasten probed my mind, but he didn’t say anything. Finally, I heard Mir, of all people. I see you reestablished the link.
I sighed as I felt her annoyance radiate into my head. You are family. I miss hearing your voice. I imagined her rolling her eyes.
Anyway. I’m relaying this to you, because Hasten and Branella are tied up in a meeting. The Prophetess is coming. Oh, and you’re safe right now. Sleep away. No one will come to look for you. She closed off the link.
I smiled to myself and shut my eyes. At least today, we were safe here.