Negative Zero (Book 1)

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Chapter 10: A Talk in the Clouds

Chapter Ten A Talk in the Clouds

“Evika, will you come take a walk with me?” Hayden asked me. “I want to show you something.”

I looked at him questioningly, wondering what new thing he was going to throw at me this time. Hayden grabbed my hand, leading me to the back of the building. We stopped when we reached the quiet alley furthest from the street. Once we got there, he looked around to be sure we were alone, and then smiled to show his satisfaction.

“Okay, are you ready?” He raised his eyebrows and smiled.

I tried sounding nonchalant. “Ready for what?”

“I don’t know why you ask me that when you know I won’t tell you.”

“Then how am I supposed to tell you I’m ready for something if I don’t know what I’m supposed to be ready for?”

He rolled his eyes and sighed. Was he getting that from me? Ugh. I could see I was getting nowhere with him. “I should have known you would make this difficult.” He shook his head with a laugh.

I put my hands to my hips and blew out a huff of air. I just waited for him to give me some sort of sign as to what the heck he wanted me to do. “Well, you dragged me out here. What’s the deal?” I asked impatiently.

“Hmm,” he pursed his lips, “I can tell you’re still a bit on the edgy side with me, huh?”

“Just a little.” I was honest.

“Well, shove that under the rug for right now. Promise you won’t get scared?”

“Promise? I’m not promising anything.”

He smirked. Then, I saw his body tighten for a moment before relaxing. Two dark wings unfurled from his back and expanded on either side of him, blocking the full moonlight. A slight gush of wind wisped in my direction as they spread. I gasped and weakened at the knees at this sight. Fear was not what I would call that instant feeling, but shock, yes. Never, in a million years did I ever think I would meet an angel, let alone watch one sprout wings before me. My heart sped up and I had no words to explain the thing that shocked me the most about those wings.

“Say something, Evika,” he said.

I couldn’t. This angel has wings? Of course, he has wings. He said he did, but why were they - “Black?” was all I could say, leaving my mouth agape.

He burst out laughing. “I unfurl my mythical wings, and the first thing you notice is the color?” He couldn’t stop laughing. “You humans and your stereotypes on the white-winged angels.” He shook his head.

I was standing only a few feet away from him, taking in the size and the texture of his wings. Other than being a charcoal black, they looked to be soft and feathery with a velvet-like texture, yet rigid and stable. Every adjective I could have used to describe them matched the characteristics that Hayden possessed. And, yes, I couldn’t help but notice the very first thing: they were black; The absence of light. It was a total satire, thinking of all the stories and folklore about angels having white, feathery, dove-like wings. I’d felt as if I’d been standing there, witnessing history in the making, and no one would have ever believed me.

I still stood in awe. “But.....black?”

He looked at me and then dropped his head, frustrated that I was still fixated on the color. “Yes, Evika. Black. They come in other assorted colors as well. Typical and boring white, sad gray, our popular off-white, and, of course, for the daring, there’s red!” he said in a sardonic, overly-dramatic tone.

I finally broke out of my trance to defend myself. “You know, you don’t give me much time to get used to new things before cracking jokes at me.” I folded my arms. “It’s rather rude.”

He took in my sensitivity and laughed. “You’re right. I’m sorry.” His look turned solemn. “Now, will you come here?” he asked with a wave of his hand.

I walked up to him, cautiously. I was only inches from him by the time I stopped and stood face to face with him. For a brief moment, I’d hoped he was going to grab me, dip me, and kiss me with those perfect, angel lips of his. We could stand there making out until sunrise and for the rest of the damned day for all I cared. I quickly erased the thought. He’s an angel, Evika. Stop these thoughts.

“So, do you trust me yet?” he asked.

I raised my brows. “Uh, do I have a choice?”

He looked up in thought for a brief moment. “No, not really.” His arms secured around my waist, pulling me into his body. I felt his hard chest muscles against mine, and I reluctantly wrapped my arms around him to match his embrace.

I looked up at him as he looked down at me. Our lips were inches apart. God, I wanted him so badly to kiss me. I was starting to get lightheaded, but I just concentrated on the conversation at hand.

“Hayden, what are we doing?” Besides hugging each other in this dark alley...

I felt the laughter vibrate through his body. He did that a lot. “Whatever you do, don’t scream.”

No sooner could I answer him before I felt pressure from the top of my head and my feet lifting from the ground. I felt my heart racing and my stomach dropping. Wind rushed down as we moved upward. I tightened my hold around his waist and buried my head into his chest as I yelped. I tried not to, but the unexpected move up into the air took the wind out of me. We were shooting up into the sky. I knew it. I felt it. I was afraid to look down. There was nothing to support my stance. Nothing.

“Evika, I’ve got you. I promise.” I heard the echo of his voice through his chest. He sounded determined to convince me, and I knew it was true after I felt him move his feet under mine to support my weight. It made me feel better not to have the open air under me like that anymore.

I barely managed to make a breath, but I kept my eyes closed and turned my head to the side so I could retort. “Hayden, you could have warned me!”

His laugh rumbled through him again. “Oh now, come on, Evika. What good would that have done?”

I kept my mouth shut, along with my eyes, but I wanted to see where he was taking us. It felt like we were still moving up. We had to have been far from the ground by then. I quickly regretted separating my head from his body to look down. I was right. We were very far from the ground.

“Hayden!” I screamed and pressed against him even tighter than before.

“Jeez, Evika. Will you just trust me? I haven’t dropped you,” he said. “Yet.”

I quickly shot him an angry look, and he just smirked as he watched where he was going. I was almost thankful that he altered my mood. It got my mind off of the fear I had of the height at which we were soaring.

Hayden finally looked down at me and smiled, “Just hang tight. We’re almost there.”

I gave up asking him questions that I knew he wasn’t going to answer. I felt the pressure in the air get a little thinner, colder. My breathing was still erratic. My heartbeat hadn’t calmed down yet. Moments later, the breeze that pressed me down came to a slower pace, and I decided to scare myself once again by peeking out at the environment around us. I averted my eyes and saw thick puffs and layers of white cotton. Clouds? I widened my eyes and looked up at Hayden.

He felt me looking at him and smiled. “You’d think you were going to have a heart attack with a heart rate like that,” he said.

I felt us stop in what I thought was mid-air. His wings slowly moved in around us, enveloping us like a cocoon. It was quiet. So quiet, I could hear only the sound of his breathing.

“Hayden, where are we?” I asked, still clutching to him.

His eyes peeked above and behind me. “A lower level of clouds.”

I breathed in deep. “But, what if I---”

“Fall?” He shook his head. “Evika, I’ve got you.” He leaned into my ear. “I promise, you’re always safe with me.” His breath tickled my ear. “But you do have to promise me one thing while we are up here.”

“What?” I was quick to answer and turned to look up at him. Our lips were inches apart once again.

His expression was solemn. “Stay with me.” The whisper of his hot breath grazed the skin of my lips.

My heart missed a beat. When he said those words to me, I knew what he meant. I knew he meant that I had to stay close to him while up that high, but I couldn’t help but take those words for more than what was said. I took in another, much needed, deep breath and answered him. “I promise.”

I swear my eyes were ready to roll to the back of my head. All he had to do was move into me, and I’d be able to taste his lips, the beautiful lips of which I dreamed. I thought I could see in his eyes that he wanted the same.

“Good.” He grinned as his dark wings started to separate, opening like curtains, revealing the world around us. He must have been determined to make me crazier than I already was. His strength was effortless as he gently lifted my body and maneuvered me to face away from him and to face the world beyond our cloud. That was when I shut my eyes tightly. Again, he placed his feet under mine so I would have something solid to stand on, and then locked his arms around me securely.

My eyes still closed, I thought about how high we were, how far the fall would be, waiting for the images of myself falling in my first death to start to haunt me.

“Evika, I know you still have your eyes closed. Will you please open them?”

I shook my head, too scared to even answer.

He leaned into my ear once again. “Please,” his voice taunted me. It was then that a wave of calm washed through me. I hadn’t expected my nerves to subside so quickly, but they had. I opened my eyes, expecting to black out from what I might see, but the eerie feelings that usually swept through me were non-existent. I was free from the torture of those thoughts for once. It may have been all the chaos and shock of the fact that I was in the sky with an angel, but I found it extremely odd that I wasn’t panicking. I embraced it and welcomed what feeling this was or whatever antidote was given me in order to ward off the madness that would have consumed me.

We stood on that cloud together, looking down at the world. The view was incredible, with the sun slowly rising and painting the land shades of orange, red, and yellow. I’ve seen paintings that tried to capture these kinds of moments, but they didn’t do it justice. I was seeing the real thing. I was seeing the world from an angel’s eye view. It was overwhelming, exciting, and powerfully exhilarating. I hardly noticed that I was leaning further over the cloud to see, as if it would have made for a better view.

“Whoa, Evika,” Hayden laughed as he pulled me back. “If I’d have known you were going to get this careless, I would have brought restraints before we came up here.”

“Oh!” I sucked air, finally noticing. I didn’t resist moving back into his body. “I’m sorry.” Hello, Evika! What is wrong with you!

“Maybe this would be better.” He lifted me up while he sat down on the edge of the fluffy cotton, letting his legs dangle. He placed me on his lap and wrapped his arms around my body, locking me into place.

I looked further into the scenery and saw the lake glisten, each peak of the waves changing colors with the rising sun.

“Hayden, it’s beautiful,” I said, quietly.

He sighed lightly. “And it never gets old.” He truly did have a sensitive side to him. As much as he frustrated the hell out of me sometimes, he was one of the most amazing beings I’d ever met. His characteristics, like his wings, were perfectly complimentary in every way, just as I’d noticed before. He was beautiful and mysterious. Stern, yet caring. Sexy, yet adorable. As much as we were hot and cold to each other since we’d officially met, I felt a perfect warmth in my heart and in my soul when I was around him. I felt safe with him, no matter where we were. I was right in calling him my dark knight. I laughed at the thought, as it fit perfectly after seeing those wings.

It was quiet between us until I turned my head slightly to look at him. “So, why did you decide to bring me up here?”

He was silent for a moment, as if trying to find the perfect words. “This is my vice.” He smiled his five-hundred watter at me. I loved that smile. “And it has been since I can remember. The world down there changes drastically and constantly. Up here, it’s been the same from the beginning of time. It’s always given me peace.”

“I can see why,” I whispered. It was automatic, what I did next. I didn’t premeditate it. It just happened. I leaned back into his body, quickly planted a kiss on his cheek and held his arms tighter around me, entwining my fingers through his. I blushed immediately at my impulsive movements, but they just felt right. I could sense the reluctance in his hands, catching him off guard like that, but he soon relented. It intoxicated me, feeling his fingers weaved through my own. I soon imagined his lips, again, pressing against mine and wondered how much further that would send me. I imagined I would be in another world. Stop this, Evika! I waved the thoughts aside once again.

“So if I fell, you’d be able to swoop down and catch me, right?” I looked up at him with a big grin. It was fun toying with the idea that I had my own Superman.

I heard a low growl utter from under his breath. “Yes, Evika, but let us not tempt fate again. Got it?”

I wondered if I’d made him nervous with my comment, because I felt his arms tighten around my waist a little more. I giggled. “Got it.”

“Thank you,” he said, exasperated.

I thought for a moment. “Hayden?”

“Yeah?” he answered quietly.

I hesitated for a second. “You were kidding about some angels having red wings, weren’t you?” I felt almost embarrassed that I was asking him the question, but I just had no idea what the real answers were anymore.

His laugh rumbled from the bottom of his stomach. “Yes, I was definitely kidding about red.” He continued with a light chuckle. “The other colors hold true though.”

I looked up at him blankly.

“I’m sorry, I thought you knew I was kidding about that one.” He smiled at me. “Anything else you want to know?”

I sighed. There were still a million questions I had, but I was afraid to overwhelm myself. One thing I did want to clear up was the hollow sound of his chest. I heard nothing but breathing.

“Don’t angels have heartbeats? I didn’t hear yours on the way up here.”

“Oh, that. No, we don’t have heartbeats unless we Fade. It’s one of the first things that happens, from what I’m told anyway.”

I nodded, thinking about angels becoming human. I partly fantasized about Hayden Fading for me, but after thinking about what happened to my birth mother, Lavinia, that put out the fantastical part of it for me. According to Hayden, it’s the most dangerous thing an angel could do. I couldn’t imagine losing someone I loved again. I was quite happy that our relationship - or whatever you’d call it....arrangement - was the way it was at the moment. Hayden was safe as a Guardian Angel. Knowing that much made me feel content.

“We don’t bleed either,” Hayden added suddenly.

“You don’t?” I was shocked, but what he said made sense; No heartbeat, no blood.

“Nope. Just tissue, unless we start to become human. Bleeding and the heartbeat kind of go together, I guess.”

I turned to look at him. I couldn’t imagine not having a heartbeat and still being alive. “Wow, you don’t bleed? That is so weird.”

Hayden laughed. “To you maybe.”

I smiled at him. I was loving this side of him. I quickly readied myself with more questions. There was an overwhelming amount that had accumulated since I found out Hayden was an angel. I was so happy that he was letting me get personal with him.

“How many lifetimes have you been a Guardian?” I was curious.

He grinned at me, as if he anticipated that question. “Including yours, I’ve been a GA for three hundred thirty-four lives.”

“At once?” I asked, shocked.

“No, only one at a time. Once their lives end here on Earth, they move on to the World of Light and the Guardian Council appoints me to a new life from its birth.”

“So, do you know when they are going to...die?”

“No, we don’t.”

“So how do you know when you’re not supposed to save them?”

“We don’t. We find out only when our powers are unable to guard them from their deaths. We aren’t given the time-line of their lives, and we aren’t given warning.”

“That doesn’t seem fair,” I declared.

“To whom?”

“To you.” I knew the reason it made me angry.

“It may not seem fair, but that is the way it works, Evika. It’s all part of the cycle of life and death. We are just as ill-prepared for the deaths as they are. Kind of a plausible bliss. I wouldn’t want to know anyway.”

I didn’t feel like heading down the road of “fair and unfair,” for I was still a bit salty about my own life and didn’t want to be a killbuzz. So I was ready to take the opportunity to steer the conversation in another direction, until Hayden said something I hadn’t expected.

“Do you want to know one of the most famous people I’ve had to watch over?”

My interest peaked. “Who?”

“Let’s see if you paid any attention in history class,” he said, turning me in his lap to face him better.

“Great, you managed to pick my worst subject in high school.” I rolled my eyes.

He laughed. “Yeah. I knew that.”

Shaking my head, I smiled.

“Okay, let’s see.” He thought for a moment. “He was the cocky guy who crowned himself emperor of France in 1804.”

My face stayed blank. I had to laugh when he said “cocky” though. That didn’t narrow anything down for me. I remembered my favorite history teacher was such a feminist and would always point out all the men throughout history who sat on a “high horse.”

“Okay.” He sighed, thinking deeply. “Does Corsica ring a bell? The insane emperor who established a huge empire for France? The French Revolution? Lots of fans, but lots of enemies, yet still went down in history as one of the world’s most notorious rulers. They even dug up his body and reburied him in Paris about twenty years after he died.” He kept shooting out clues.

I raised my eyebrows searching for more help in his expression and clues. “I told you history was my worst subject.” I shrugged.

“All right. Last clue, and I really thought I wouldn’t have to do it.” He carefully pulled one arm from my waist and clutched me tighter with the other, placing his free arm across his stomach and burying his hand inside his jacket. “The guy who is always in the paintings like this?” He said it as if it were a question. Then it hit me.

“Oh!” I was so excited when the answer hit me. “I know exactly who you mean now! Napoleon Bonaparte?”

Hayden threw his head back, exhausted. “Yes!” He placed his arms back around me again, never missing a beat. “It figures you would remember the paintings and recall him only as the guy who had his hand across his stomach in all the paintings.

I laughed. “Sorry, nothing else really rings a bell until you bring up a little idiosyncrasy like that. So, are you serious? You guarded Napoleon? No way!”

“Let me tell you, that guy was a challenge. He caused a lot of bad blood with a lot of countries. His mind worked like a series of ticking time-bombs, one going off right after the next. He never stopped thinking about his next move up the ruling ladder, even with women. Josephine and he never had kids and he wanted an heir so badly to be his successor. He finally ended his marriage with her and married Marie-Louise and they had one son, Little Napoleon, who ended up never ruling any country at all. Go figure.”

I was staring at him. He was like a talking history book, someone who had lived it. I shook my head as if trying to shake out of a trance. “I can’t believe we are having this conversation,” I said, still staring at him.

“Yeah, I guess it is a bit heavy for you to hear all this, huh?”

I sighed, trying to take it all in. “Just a little.” I smiled.

“I’m sorry. It’s just a lot of information up here, and sometimes I can go down memory lane a bit, especially when I’m talking with someone about it.

I kept staring at him, mesmerized. “Huh.” His emerald eyes were driving me crazy. He was completely adorable, rambling like he was.

“I’m sorry,” he said with a simper. “Am I boring you?”

I finally blinked and shook my head. “Oh, no! Exactly the opposite. I find you absolutely fascinating. I mean, you really are a talking history book.”

He laughed. “That’s one way to put it.”

I smiled coyly. “So you might be able to clear a few things up for me on history stuff then, huh?”

He shrugged. “Okay. Shoot.”

“Okay, so the moon landing in nineteen sixty-nine, did it really happen, or was it a hoax?”

“Hmm,” he thought for a moment. “Yes and no. It didn’t really happen until late 1970. The video and pictures were shot in a studio in L.A. just to bide time.”

“No way!”

“Yes way.”

“I knew it! Okay....um,” I tapped my chin. “How about the shot heard around the world that started the Revolutionary War? Who really fired the first shot?”

He laughed. “A fourteen-year-old boy who was holding his father’s gun to protect his family. He slipped when his nerves got to him.”

“So it wasn’t just a lyric. It really was based off of an actual shot that started the whole thing. Amazing. Oh! How about the Titanic? Was there really a guy named Jack Dawson, like in the movie?”

Hayden looked at me like I was insane and just shook his head, laughing hard. “No, Evika. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character was not a real person.”

I nudged him, leaning into him again and laying my head against his chest. If I made him uncomfortable with that move, I just didn’t care. “Where were you when I needed you for all of those darn tests in school?”

Then he did something I didn’t expect. He was constantly throwing me curve balls. Every turn with him was something new and undiscovered. I felt his soft, warm lips kiss the top of my head, right before he laid his cheek against my hair.

“Evika,” he spoke softly. “I have always been with you.”

I could have died and gone to the next world right then. Hayden and my sitting on that cloud together was as comfortable and normal as if we were sitting on a front porch watching the sun rise. I wondered if he would have let me sit on his lap if we were on the ground. I wouldn’t have needed so much protection on the ground, of course, but I just loved sitting there with his arms around me, holding me. I was starting to have these powerful feelings for him, and I wasn’t sure if I should have. I didn’t know if it was just me or the intensity of the moment that made them more prominent than normal. Perhaps the fact that he’d opened up and shared some of himself with me really put a spin on my feelings being so strong for him. He wasn’t perfect, per se, but he was completely perfect for me. I just know I didn’t want him to let me go and I was silently grateful that he was going to be in my life constantly. I felt the dumbest grin widen on my face at that last thought.

The sun was close to being risen completely. I had wished there was a way to glue the sun to the part of the sky at which it was located just so I could keep the moment forever, but I knew the morning was coming, and sleep was calling my name. We’d have to get inside.

“We should go home now,” Hayden said, breaking the comfortable silence. He did his effortless lift of my body and stood on the cloud’s surface, placing my feet atop of his own.

“Hmm,” he glanced over the side of the cloud.

“What?” I asked, curiosity in my expression.

“Well, coming up is one thing, but going down is another,” he answered.

I froze. “Uh, what do you mean?”

“Oh, don’t look so worried.” He laughed. He then scooped me up, cradling me in his arms with one around my shoulders and the other under my legs. I felt weightless the way he lifted me with such grace.

“This doesn’t give me much to hold onto, Hayden,” I said, laying my arms awkwardly across my chest.

He pulled me in closer and a little higher. My arms automatically reached around his neck and my face pressed against the skin of his cheek. There went the intoxication again. I was breathing him in, the smell of freshly-fallen rain. It was then that I realized why he smelled this way, thinking of the clouds and how often he’d perched on them throughout his existence as he looked down at my world. It’s almost as if he’d become a part of the sky and the wonderful elements of which it was made. He shared that with me. He showed me how peaceful and beautiful the world looked from up high where he was from. His world.

I closed my eyes, inhaling him. “Hayden?”

“Yes?” He asked as he readied his majestic, dark wings.

“Thank you for bringing me up here with you.”

He paused for a moment, and I waited for what was always an unpredictable answer. He finally whispered into my ear.

“Thank you for letting me,” he said.

A split second later, we were soaring through the air, gliding back down to the alley. But I hadn’t noticed us getting closer to the land; I was still up in those clouds.

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