Soon after King Ajay’s declaration of war, the meeting was adjourned. It was a transparent attempt to dissolve the chaos that started spreading in the conference hall. The attendees –the wealthy families with power and rank in the mystic world- had found the decision to train the seniors for war horrid, especially since most of them had children in the final classes of Lixierra academy. Kira, Rose and I slipped out of the back door as soon as Queen Annabelle announced the ending of the royal meeting, breathing a sigh of relief that no one noticed our presence. We waited in the shadows until the royal families left the hall, and when my parents found us and told us that the royals were requesting to see their children before they leave Kira and Rose headed back to the main building.
My parents were livid. They were in the middle of a heated argument about King Ajay’s ‘foolish declaration’ and his ‘selfish demeanor’ when I spotted Kyle and his friends coming out of the hall. King Kilian and Queen Lisa stood with them for a while, surrounded by their guards as they hugged their son and left for the main building soon after. As Kyle hung back to talk to his friends, I saw an opportunity to escape my parents’ aggravated mood.
“I’ll be back in a second.” I said over my shoulder and made my way to the little group, ignoring my parents’ protests.
“Lilith.” Kyle smiled as he saw me, interrupting whatever his blond friend was saying.
“Kyle.” I smiled back. “What you did back there was impressive. Standing up to his royal ass has got to be one of your finest moments.”
“I don’t know about that,” He smirked, “I have been known to have quite a lot of fine moments.” He ran a hand through his locks, pushing the hair that fell down his face away. “I didn’t know you were attending the meeting. I didn’t see you there.”
“I didn’t want to be seen.” I said nonchalantly. “Aren’t you going to introduce us?” I asked as I noticed the awkward smiles plastered on his friends’ faces.
“Of course. Lilith, this is Kevin,” He nodded towards a brown haired boy with doe eyes and a bright smile. “And this is Eli.” The blond one shook my hand, his rosy cheeks brightening his pale face.
“Nice to meet you both!” I said cheerfully.
“Nice to meet you.” They said in unison.
“So Lilith, how do you like Lixierra so far?” Kevin asked.
“Well, I’ve only been here for less than a month and I’ve already antagonized the school’s queen bee, got my ass handed to me in martial arts classes, and been attacked by dark creatures from the underworld. I’d say I’m having a marvelous time.” I couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of my tone and the three boys chuckled.
“There is no dull day here in Lixierra.” Eli said and I scoffed.
“Well, we have to get going Kyle; we’re still needed in the main building.” Kevin let out with a sigh.
“You guys go ahead; I’ll catch up in a second.” Kyle responded.
Kevin and Eli obliged, waving at me as they left.
“What are you doing later tonight?” Kyle asked me as soon as his friends were out of earshot.
“Err, nothing.” I gave him a quizzical look.
“Meet me down by the lake at midnight.” He whispered as he took a step closer to me.
“Sure.” I said after a moment of silence and he nodded in satisfaction. Another step closer, he planted a soft kiss on my cheek and smiled before hurrying to join his friends and I hoped that he hadn’t noticed the sudden flush that invaded my face.
Back in my room once again, I laid down on my bed and recounted the events of the day. Kira and Rose were still with their parents at the main building and my parents were called to join the royals as well, so I headed back home thankful to be alone and have time to clear my head. I had pulled my father to the side before he had to leave to join my mother and the royals and I had asked him about the conversation he had with Mr. Blackthorn that morning. His reaction had been disappointing but expected. Just like my mother when I had told her about the Grim ones, my father had tensed at the mention of his conversation and had told me that he had simply been asking about my progress in my magic classes. I had smiled tightly and left, my mind reeling with questions and accusations. Now as I stared at my ceiling in the dark room, it felt as if my thoughts were flashing by so fast that I could lose my mind. The voices in my head were louder than ever, each voice expressing a darker thought than the last. ’Maybe you heard wrong.’ ‘You lost your memory not your hearing Lilith. You heard them loud and clear, they were talking about you.’ ‘But why would they lie? Why would they keep secrets from you?’ ‘Your paranoia will be the death of you’. ‘You’re not paranoid, trust your guts.’ ‘You know something is wrong.’ ‘They kept the fact that you were a mystic from you for two years, and when you found out they sent you to a school of powerful magical beings without any preparations.’ ‘Did they know you looked exactly like the dead queen?’ ‘Aline.’ ‘Of course they knew, but they kept that from you too. God knows what else they’re hiding.’
I turned around to lay on my side, shaking my head as if to clear it.
’The meeting was no help either.’ ‘It seems the royals can’t get along, let alone save the kingdoms.’ ‘King Ajay sounded like a selfish bastard. And what did he mean by the battle of the second semester?’ ‘How come they made no progress with the investigation of Aline’s murder? She’s been dead for two years.’
I sighed audibly, frustrated with my own mind. I had more questions now after that meeting than this morning and it seemed as if every day I spent here at Lixierra brought with it a load of new questions and I ended up more confused than ever.
I glanced at the clock at my bedside table and my heart jumped. It was 10 pm, only two hours before I had to meet Kyle at the lake. Kyle and I had spent some time together before and I had enjoyed his company. He was handsome, charming, sweet, interesting and royal. He was perfect, and yet… ‘Chase.’ The voice whispered to me and my heart clenched against my rib cage. Chase and I were barely friends. We have spoken once so far not to mention that he had a girlfriend, one that hated my guts for no reason other than the resemblance I shared with Chase’s dead ex girlfriend. So why was it that every time I saw him my heart jumped and when he smiled at me this morning I had never felt happier? I couldn’t afford to like him. My status at this school was hanging by a thread and antagonizing the queen B herself was not on my ‘to do list’. Not to mention, my sanity would not survive the blow of rejection.
The sound of the front door shutting silenced the loud chatter in my head and I was grateful for the distraction. I left my room and headed down the stairs where I found Kira and Rose spread across the sofas in the living room. They perked up as they saw me.
“Hey.” Rose started. “I thought you were staying with your parents tonight.”
“They’re leaving tonight actually. We’ve already said our goodbyes.”
“So are the royals.” Kira sighed.
“Not a second too soon.” Rose whispered.
“What happened after I left?”
“They assigned a dozen or so of the royal guards to stay behind. They are sending more tomorrow morning. Each kingdom will be sending 20 highly trained soldiers to protect the school.”
“And the island?”
“They are working on restoring and strengthening the wards as we speak. Coleste should be safe.”
“I’m drained.” Rose started, standing up. “I’m going to bed.”
“Me too.” Kira followed suit. “Good night, Lilith.”
I made my way out of the house, closing the door behind me as quietly as I could. After making sure my roommates were asleep, I had rummaged through my closet for hours looking for something to wear. My earlier internal dilemma had left me as confused as ever, wondering if I should treat this late night outing as a date or a casual encounter between friends. My inner voice had scoffed at the time, snidely commenting that a casual outing wouldn’t take place at midnight by a marvelous lake. I had finally decided to wear my black jeans and a maroon blouse with lacey long sleeves. The outfit had seemed causal enough yet presentable. I had thought about putting on some makeup, but the fact that it was pitch black outside –except from the silver light of the new moon- and that I was too tired deterred me from it.
As I walked down the familiar bushes, I couldn’t help but shiver as the late night breeze blew my hair out of my face. It was an unusually cold night here at Coleste, the first signs of the fall.
“You’re late.” The familiar voice caught me off guard and I looked up from the stones to see Kyle standing by the lake. Under the soft silver light, he looked almost like a dark angel with his black clothes and his devilish smirk. My breath caught in my chest as I took him in. When Chase had looked innocent and pure, his smile soft and welcoming, Kyle looked dark and intriguing. I sighed as I realized I was caught in the most predictable of clichés, between the handsome knight and the dark prince. ‘A cliché of your own making!’ The snarky voice whispered and I shook my head, pushing her condescending ass away, for now.
“It’s 12:02.” I said as I read the time off of my phone screen, blinking the bright light away.
“You seem to enjoy making me wait.” He shoved his hands into his pockets, his smirk never leaving his face.
“It only happened once and I had a good reason then.” I said as I made my way towards him, standing beside him by the lake. “I’m sorry I kept you waiting for two whole minutes.” I rolled my eyes and smiled.
“You don’t have to apologize,” he said in a hushed voice, “I’ll always wait for you.”
I avoided his eyes, looking at the shimmering water instead and hoping the night was dark enough to conceal my blushing cheeks.
“I have to say,” I started, still avoiding his dark eyes. “I was a little surprised when you asked to see me tonight.”
“With everything that is going on, I thought you could use some time off to relax.” He paused for a moment, as if thinking of what to say next, and then continued: “How are you?”
I looked up at him in surprise. “I’m alright.” My hand instinctively reached for the bandage on my forehead. “It doesn’t hurt anymore.”
“That’s great to know,” his smirk disappeared, replaced by a serious look I have never seen on his face. “But I wasn’t asking about your injury.”
I looked in his eyes for the first time this night, and it felt like he was staring right into my soul. Something about the way he looked at me felt comforting, as if I can be totally honest with him without fear of judgment. He must have taken my silence for hesitation because he reached for my hand and held it tightly, his hand warm against mine, and led me to a big rock facing the water. “Let’s sit down.” He said as he pulled me next to him. The rock was huge, its surface smooth and cold, and a shiver went through my body as I sat down. “You’re cold.” Kyle noted before he slipped off his black leather jacket and placed it on my shoulders. I began to protest but his warm smile shut me up, and I sank into his jacket, the smell of his cologne invading all of my senses and warmth spreading through my body.
“I understand if you don’t want to tell me. I just want you to be comfortable.” He said in a soft voice.
“No, it’s not that.” I shook my head. “It’s just -” A deep sigh escaped my lips and my mind started spinning. I wanted to tell Kyle the truth, to share my worries and problems with him if only for the sake of talking to someone, anyone. But which truth could I share? Do I tell him that I remember nothing of my life except for the last two years? Do I let him know that I think my parents are keeping secrets from me? Or should I inform him of the fact that my parents are not even my real parents? Which part of the truth could I share with him without having him ask questions I don’t have the answers to? And wouldn’t it be selfish of me to share these heavy burdens with someone I barely know? Kyle might want to know now, but there is no guarantee he would stick around if he found out the whole truth. So I did what I usually do in situations like these, I concealed the important parts.
“It’s all just too much.” I began. “The classes, the magic, the Grim ones and the politics of the mystic world. I am overwhelmed.” I had come to the conclusion that I didn’t have to lie; I simply had to share a part of the truth.
“I know.” He grabbed my hand again and gave it a light squeeze as if to comfort me. “It’s all new to you and you dived into our world head first. It’s completely understandable to feel this way.”
“Is it understandable to feel so helpless as well? Because sometimes all I can think about is just going back home and putting all of this behind me.” I took my eyes off of the still water and looked at him “You must think I’m pathetic.”
“Not at all.” He smiled at me, a warm genuine smile –one of the rare ones for Kyle-. “We’ve all felt that way at one point in our lives. You just have to remember that you are stronger than you give yourself credit for, and that you don’t have to go through this alone.”
His hand reached for my face, and he tucked a strand of white hair behind my ear. “I heard you declared a second element.” He said and his eyes lit up.
“I did.” I was confused. “How did you know that?” Besides Mr. Blackthorn and my roommates, I was certain I didn’t share the news with anyone else.
“I have my sources.” He winked.
“Are you stalking me?” I asked, a little thrilled by the prospect of his royal hotness asking around about me.
“I wouldn’t call it stalking per se.” He smirked. “I’m simply invested in your well-being.”
“Well I’m flattered, your highness.” I perked up. “But next time you want to find out something about me, just ask me directly.”
“I can manage that.” He laughed, a surprisingly soft and melodic laugh compared to his usual nonchalant demeanor.
The sound of buzzing interrupted the moment and Kyle reached into his jeans’ pocket to retrieve his phone. The look on his face as he read the text message on his screen was easy to translate, and I noted with a heavy heart that our rendezvous was coming to an end.
“I’m sorry, Lilith.” He said as he looked up from his phone. “I have to go.”
“Don’t worry about it.” I forced a smile on my face. I was sad to see him go, especially since I had just started to relax and enjoy myself, but there was nothing I could do. I took off his jacket, fighting a shiver, and handed it back to him regretfully. “This was fun.”
“I’m glad.” He stood up and pulled me off of the rock swiftly. “We should do this again soon.” He stepped closer to me and planted a kiss on my cheek.
“We should.” I nodded in agreement.
“Tomorrow.” He stated -as a matter of fact- and I smiled.
“Tomorrow it is.”
That night I found myself walking around Lixierra for no apparent reason. Everything was strangely quiet -besides the screeching of the owls and insects that lingered in the air- and I couldn’t help but to notice that there was absolutely no one around aside from me. I walked past the usually crowded fountain to another area, which made me confused; did I break the curfew? Instead of being terrified of that thought I was actually excited, and somehow the silence didn’t scare me but comforted me as it caressed my skin like a cool summer breeze. My smile grew bigger as I lifted my head up and stared at the full moon that shone brightly in the night sky reflecting the happiness I was currently feeling. A soft voice at the back of my mind noted that something was different. Wasn’t the sky adorned with a new moon just a moment ago when I met Kyle? But that voice was silenced as each stride I took cleared my mind and I was suddenly aware of where I was heading. So I wasn’t surprised when I found myself walking through that familiar road that soon compressed itself into a stone path I knew too well. But to my surprise the path wasn’t neglected like I’ve left it earlier; it was actually clean and easy to walk through unlike the bushy hell that I had to go through every time I wanted to be here.
Upon reaching the end of the path, I saw a tall, lean figure standing near the lake. I couldn’t make out who it was since their back was to me, but that didn’t stop me from grinning to myself like I knew exactly who it was. My heart beat picked up its pace in a strange way as I slowly made my way towards whoever it was, trying my best not to make any sound so I wouldn’t get easily noticed. I was two feet away from him when he spoke up: “You’re late” I froze in my place upon hearing that deep familiar voice that always made feel excited yet soothed my soul at the same time. He turned around smiling brightly at me, his dark eyes reflecting the silver light of the moon. His face was pale, his cheeks flushed with the cold and his lips were rosy and alluring. “Chase?” I wanted to say but nothing came out from my mouth as he suddenly -and before I could process anything- cupped my cheeks and pressed his lips against mine. I would have expected myself to pull away, to push him away or to at least gasp in surprise, but to my utter shock I found myself melting in the familiarity of the sensation that took me over. His lips felt soft against mine, his breath warm against my skin and I found myself kissing him back. Every nerve in my body was set on fire and my hands circled his neck, sinking into his soft dark locks. My heart pounded against my chest and my body relaxed into his embrace. The kiss was sweet, deep and intense all at once and I drowned it in. As we pulled back to catch our breath, I could see in his eyes that he loved me, and as he caressed my face gently, I wanted this moment to last forever.
I sat up suddenly in my bed, a long gasp escaping my lips. I couldn’t remember the last time I had slept without having that awful nightmare, but tonight’s dream was worlds apart. Even now as I worked on steadying my hoarse breath, I could feel his lips on mine, his hands on my back, his tongue dancing with mine. But above all, I could feel the love he had for me, and the love I had for him. I sighed in exasperation and threw my pillow across my room. “It was just a dream.” I said out loud to no one in particular. It certainly didn’t feel like one if the tingling of my lips were any indication. I ran a hand through my messy hair. What sort of cosmic joke was this? To dream about a guy when I was on a date with another not even hours before?