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“So how come you don’t want to sing tonight?” Dina asked. She wasn’t even looking at Joy; she was too busy applying her makeup. It also didn’t really sound like she cared, but that might’ve been because she was too preoccupied with how well her makeup looked.

“I don’t feel very well,” Joy fibbed. “I just want to sleep.” Joan patted Joy on the shoulder, then went back to putting her hair up in a braid. It was amazing to Joy that Joan knew how to put her own hair up in a braid. Joy herself had trouble putting it up in a simple ponytail; it always came out having little bumps of uneven hair.

“I hope you feel better, sis,” Joan said. “Are you sure you don’t wanna come and cheer on your big sister?” Joy nodded her head.

“I’m sure. I’m too tired to go out anyway,” she claimed.

“Well, no wonder you’re in your PJs,” Dina remarked. Their father called up for them to hurry so they could leave. Joy could already imagine how the festival would seem like being in a time loop. It was the night before, and it was going to be tonight. She could already tell.

“See you when we get home, Joy,” Joan exclaimed, giving Joy one of those side hugs before running downstairs. Their father called up a goodbye and Joy called out a farewell back, then she heard the door open and close. The faint sound of the car starting outside told her that they were pretty much gone now, and she retreated to her bedroom.

Charlie was sleeping on the bed, probably dreaming about running, judging from his little foot twitches. She thought it was cute and smiled.

She wasn’t entirely tired yet, so she sat by the window and opened it. The Kapre was just chilling in the tree branches. It gave her a kind smile when it saw her. She smiled back.

“Do you think you could hand me a leaf?” she asked.

“Opo,” it said, and handed her one of the leaves from the tree.

“Salamat,” she replied, smiling. It smiled back. She prepared the leaf a little bit, then started playing Oracion on it. The Kapre clearly enjoyed the tune. It closed its eyes and swayed its head side to side. Maybe while I’m waiting to get tired, I’ll watch Death Note, she thought. She liked Death Note, mostly because of L. She didn’t know many anime fans who didn’t like L.

...Well, that was an understatement. She didn’t know a lot of people in general, much less ones that liked anime; Joan had only told her of an Anime Club at the high school, and how a lot of people would gush about certain characters. But she’d never gain the guts to meet any of them, even if they did have the same interests as her.

“Hey Joy,” a familiar and unwanted voice called out. She abruptly stopped playing the leaflute and looked around. Chyll was standing under the tree, clearly oblivious to the Kapre. She didn’t give him a chance to speak again; she swiftly slammed the windows and locked them, then raced to the other side of the room. She could hear his muffled voice still calling out her name.

She didn’t go back to the window; she knew better than that. She walked out of her room and into Joan’s. Joan had a little hideout area that had a TV, movies and video games, two bean bags, and a basket filled with her anime DVDs. There were no windows in the hideout area, which was a relief. She didn’t want to hear him calling out again.

Charlie came trotting in as she set the Death Note DVD in the DVR. She was now on episode twenty-two again. She crawled back over to the door, shut it, then settled down in one of the bean bags and continued watching.

“Joy!” His voice came again, and she paused the episode. It didn’t sound like he was in the house, more like how it sounded coming from an open window. But there were no windows open. And she’d locked her window…hadn’t she? She moved Charlie from her lap (where he’d settled after he trotted in), then crawled to the little hideout door and locked it. She sat there and listened, trying to hear if the voice would sound again.

“Joy!” There it was again. She held her breath, trying to stay silent. She looked back at Charlie. He was keeping quiet too, only panting a little.

She leaned down to try and look under the door as much as she could. The carpet blocked her view a little bit, but she could still somewhat see out into Joan’s room. Nothing really out of the ordinary, just the bedroom.

Those creepy green eyes suddenly fell down in front of her line of vision, and she jumped back in shock. Charlie started barking, and she started shushing him. It didn’t work, obviously, because he now knew where she was. The doorknob started jiggling, like he was trying to open the door.

“Joy, come on out!” he shouted. “I’ll give you a pretty new necklace.” She knew better than to trust him. She’d read it in that mythology book; they tempted their victims with wealth and gifts. She wasn’t gonna fall for that.

“Go away!” she shouted. “Go away and leave me alone!” The jiggling doorknob stopped, and was replaced by a loud pounding. She was afraid he was going to break the door down.

“OPEN THE GODDAMN DOOR, YOU BITCH!” he yelled. She was now crying. She hadn’t been this scared since that time Marissa and Lillabeth confronted her and Charlie, or since the Wak-Wak attack.

“Leave me alone!” she shrieked through her sobs. The pounding continued, even louder than it was before now. Now she was certain he was intent on breaking down the door. Charlie continued barking, and she was afraid that he’d hurt Charlie if he made it through.

“OPEN THE DOOR!” he shouted.

“Go away!” she screamed back. Then the pounding stopped. The only sound came from Charlie’s growls and yips, her panting sobs, and her heart pounding. Carefully and quietly, she crawled to the door and peeked under it again. Nothing, like he’d never even been there to begin with.

She sat back up and continued crying, allowing the sobs to come out in raspy little gasps. This had to be one of the scariest things she’d encountered. Maybe second to the Wak-Wak attack. That one really scared her just as much as it’d hurt her.

Charlie came up and rested his head against her side, trying to comfort her. She could not be comforted. This was a terrifying experience, and one she hoped she wouldn’t have to repeat.

She kept this horrifying experience to herself. She didn’t want to have to worry her family.

The next day, it was raining. The sky was completely covered up by clouds, and it was the kind of rain that threw itself to the ground and hurt when it landed on you. Joy didn’t care, however. She was going shopping with Joan. It’d been a while since they’d gone shopping. Probably not since they were twelve.

“Hey, what do you think of this one?” Joan asked, holding up a tunic that was made to look like an American football jersey. She shrugged.

“It’s nice,” she mumbled. Joan stared at her for a moment, then placed the tunic back.

“Something on your mind?” she asked.

“No,” Joy denied. “No, I just didn’t sleep well last night.” Didn’t sleep well? That was an understatement. She didn’t sleep at all; she was too afraid that he (Chyll) would come back. She just laid in her bed, her left hand supporting her head under her pillow, touching the knife she’d grabbed for protection. It was the best they had. She didn’t know if her father had a gun or not.

“Wanna talk about it?” Joan asked, going through the clothes again.

“What’s there to talk about? It was only a bad dream. That’s all,” Joy commented, shoving her hands into her coat pockets. She looked around, making sure he wasn’t there. She couldn’t be sure when he was going to pop up.

“I guess you’re right. Hey, how do you like this one?” Joan asked, holding up a rainbow-striped maxi dress.

“It’s cute,” Joy praised. Joan held it up against her body and twirled around with it.

“I think I’m gonna buy this,” she decided, hooking it over one arm, then looking through some other clothes.

Joan ended up buying at least four different dresses, going back and grabbing the American football jersey tunic. Now they were just making their way home. Joy couldn’t help but look around nervously. She couldn’t help it; Chyll terrified her. And there was the possibility of his kidnapping her. She really hoped that wouldn’t happen.

“Wanna go see a movie?” Joan asked. Joy quickly shook her head.

“No. Right now, I just wanna go home,” she murmured. Joan gave her a funny look. She really wanted to explain to Joan what was going on; then she’d be able to understand. But Joan wasn’t a superstitious girl. She’d think Joy was joking around. And what was the good of that? It’d only make her feel worse.

“Is someone blackmailing you? How come you keep staring around all shifty-eyed?” Joan asked. Joy shrugged.

“I guess you could call him a stalker,” she shrugged. She jumped out of her skin after an arm wrapped around her shoulders, and looked up into Chyll’s green eyes. He was smiling, but he looked a little disappointed.

“Hey Princess. I was disappointed when you turned me down last night. How about going for a cup of coffee?” he asked.

“Joy, who is that guy?” Joan asked. Joy didn’t answer; she pulled free from him and just started running. She didn’t care if she left Joan behind because she knew Joan would be fine. Chyll was fixated on her, not Joan.

Once she assumed that she’d ran far enough, she stopped behind a wall to catch her breath. Once I turn a certain age, I am moving out of this country, she thought. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone, planning on calling her dad so he could come pick her up. Then she’d be safely at home.

Chyll grabbed her arm and caused her to drop her phone. The screen cracked once it hit the ground.

“You’re making this a lot more difficult than it has to be, you know,” he warned. She started trying to pull away from him, but only managed to slip out of her jacket. She started running again, pushing through the cold. She wanted to get as far away from him as possible. This guy was a total menace. She didn’t want to be taken away from her family. Not now, not ever.

She turned a corner and pile-drived right into someone, landing right on top of them. When she pushed herself up into a sitting position, she saw that the person that she’d crashed into was Jake.

“Oh, my God. I’m sorry,” she exclaimed, pushing herself to stand up. He ignored the hand she’d held out to him and pushed himself to stand up. At least he doesn’t seem mad, she thought.

“Don’t worry about it,” he brushed off, then pointed to the pink button-up shirt she was wearing. “How come you’re not wearing a jacket? It’s kinda cold today.” She looked down at her shirt. She’d forgotten that Chyll still had her coat. She’d disregarded it.

“I-I did have one, but…” How on earth was she going to explain that some malicious engkanto had it? Half the time she talked about this stuff, people thought she was crazy. “A, uh…bully stole it.” It was the best she could come up with. Jake didn’t seem to be questioning it, just slightly surprised.

“Huh, I didn’t even know you were being bullied,” he remarked.

“I mean, it’s not an…everyday thing. Only on the days when I…actually go out,” she stammered. Then Chyll calling out her name scared her so badly, and she hid behind Jake. “That’s the bully.” Chyll came around the corner, her jacket still in his hand. He was giving Jake a grim stare, like he was saying “Who the fuck are you”.

“Hey Princess, you wanna tell me who this is?” he asked. He sounded pissed.

“Who the hell are you?” Jake demanded. He glanced back at Joy, then looked back at Chyll.

“Her boyfriend,” Chyll lied. Not true. At all, she thought. She’d be damned if he was her boyfriend...or dead.

“Doesn’t seem like it,” Jake said. “If she was your girlfriend, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be running from you.”

“We’re working things out right now,” Chyll claimed.

“Yeah, I don’t think so. Leave her alone. She clearly doesn’t want to be with you, much less around you,” Jake pointed. Chyll stared at Jake for a moment, then glanced at Joy, then turned and left, taking her coat with him. Who cares? I have another coat, she thought.

“Th-Thank you, Jake,” she stuttered, stepping out from behind him.

“No problem, I don’t think any girl would want an engkanto after them,” he commented. Her eyes widened a little. He knew? How could he know? Most people were unable to identify an engkanto.

“Y-you knew he was a…” she started, but her shock made her unable to finish her sentence. He nodded.

“Yeah,” he said. He looked back over his shoulder for a moment, then looked back at her. “Hey, you wanna go somewhere?” She looked back up at him in surprise. Go somewhere? As in a date? No, not a date; maybe just someplace to hang out as friends.

“W-Where?” she asked.

“It’s this place I like to hang out at sometimes. It’s actually kinda cool,” he explained. She looked away for a moment. She did want to go, but she’d have to tell Joan and her father. Goddamn, my phone is broken, she thought. Then she looked up behind Jake; Joan was peering around the corner, smiling at her. Did she just hear what he said? She must’ve, because she was making the “go on” motion with her hand, and gave her a thumbs up.

“Um, yeah. Sure,” she accepted. She could feel her cheeks heating up. Joan walked across the street, giving her another thumbs up as she went.

Then another thought occurred to her: the Kapre. It would not like this. Of course, if they were just going as friends and nothing happened, it probably wouldn’t be much of a problem.

“Cool. It’s this way,” he said, leading her down the street.

As it turns out, the cool place was the old theatre where a lot of plays and other shows would be put on. Tonight, it was the ballet The Nutcracker. Jake led the way up a fire escape ladder and onto the roof, and through an open window. The attic was filled with old costumes, instruments, props, and old paint cans. In the center of the room was a big opening (it was near the lights) that showed the stage, where all the dancers were practicing for the night’s performance.

“I came across this place a while ago. Hardly anyone comes up here,” he explained, setting up two folding chairs in front of the opening. He took a seat in one, and she took a seat in the other.

“It’s definitely…interesting,” she commented. That was hardly the truth: it was really dusty and dark, and she was sure she could hear little pests skittering around. Other than that, it was kinda cool seeing the old costumes and props and stuff.

“How long has that guy been following you around?” he asked. She shook her head.

“Since the second night of the festival,” she replied. “It’s really been stressing me out.”

“Have you told him to leave you alone?” he asked.

“Yeah, but he won’t. He’s really persistent,” she said. Jake shrugged his shoulders.

“I guess that doesn’t really surprise me. That is how engkanto are,” he remarked. The fact that he knew how engkanto were really caught her attention. She didn’t expect someone like him to know much about mythology.

“How do you know what they’re like?” she asked. He shrugged his shoulders.

“I do some research here and there,” he said. “What about you, same?”

“Kinda,” she muttered. “I didn’t think you liked doing stuff like that.”

“I don’t really brag about it,” he shrugged. She looked back down at the performance. It was a pas de deux between whom she assumed were Clara and the nutcracker in human form. The music was really nice.

“Do you like ballet?” she asked. He shrugged.

“It’s not my favorite, but it is nice to watch,” he said. That was kinda how she felt about it too. There was a time where she’d wanted to take ballet, but after seeing what the dancers’ feet look like, she decided to keep her toes unbroken. But the music and costumes were nice and she liked to watch it sometimes.

“Same,” she agreed. He chuckled, and she laughed a little with him.

“I feel like everyone uses that ‘same’ joke,” he commented. “I see it a lot on social media.”

“That’s what Joan says,” she added. She preferred not to go on social media because she didn’t want to be torn down by cyber bullies.

“Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” he said. “Do you have a crush on me?” That made her straighten up, and she could feel her cheeks and ears heating up.

“Why?” she asked.

“You’re always blushing when we talk,” he noted.

“Th-That’s…social anxiety. I do that with everyone I talk to,” she claimed. That wasn’t 100% true, but she did blush a lot when talking to strangers. Well, that’s what Joan always said.

“I’ve never seen you blush when talking to my mom,” he pointed. She didn’t know how to answer to that. She just looked back down at the dancers. She could tell he was still staring at her, and she could feel her cheeks and ears getting hotter.

“I, uh…I,” she faltered, but she could come up with no words to explain herself. “Uh…”

“I’ve had a crush on you too,” he declared, and she looked back at him in shock. Now he was blushing. That was something she did not expect.

“S-Since when?” she asked.

“Since you started babysitting Jen,” he said. “Sometimes I’d come home early and hear you singing to her to get her to go to sleep. And I’d also hear you play that leaf whistle thing.”

“Leaflute,” she corrected, and he nodded.

“Right,” he acknowledged. “Right. Leaflute.” He glanced back down at the dancers’ rehearsal. Now it was getting to the more familiar Nutcracker songs, the ones that everyone knew, even if they’d never seen The Nutcracker.

Then Jake did something that caught her completely by surprise: he kissed her. She’d never been kissed before. She found it kind of enjoyable, and began melting into it. But then the feeling of eyes watching her made her pull back and stand up. The Kapre saw, she was sure of it. Now he was going to hurt Jake.

“I have to go,” she claimed, backing away toward the open window.

“I-I’m sorry, I didn’t—“ he started, but she didn’t let him finish. She just climbed out the window, down the fire escape ladder, and started running back home. How many times had she run away from someone today? She was sure it was only twice, but it felt like a dozen times. As she was running, she was looking around, trying to see if she could see the Kapre’s glowing eyes in the trees or Chyll hiding behind a corner. Nothing, thank God.

As she crossed a street, a car slammed its breaks and honked its horn at her.

“BOBO BATANG BABAE!” the man inside the car yelled, then drove around her and continued on his way. She did the same, and ran down the street back to her house. It looked like it was getting darker. She couldn’t be sure what time it was; she wore no watch and her phone was broken. She ran inside the house and started ringing the rain from her hair.

“Joy, there you are,” her father greeted. “Are you okay?”

“Yes...I’m fine. I was just...rushing to get know?” she panted. She pushed herself to stand up straight. “What time is it?”

“Oh, about a quarter to four. I’ll be preparing dinner in half an hour,” he replied. She nodded, then made her way to the stairs.

“I’m gonna take a shower,” she informed. That was a good idea; it’d help her calm down and would get the stink of the rain water off of her skin. When she walked through the door, Charlie got down from the bed and trotted over to greet her. She knelt down and pet him, scratching him behind the ears.

“I bet you had a relaxing day,” she beamed, then went to her dresser and pulled out some pajamas and a clean pair of panties.

The shower definitely helped her calm down, as they mostly always did. She dried off her body with a towel, then slipped on the panties and pajamas. She wiped the condensation off the mirror and started brushing her teeth. A little early, considering that they’d be having dinner in a little while, but she didn’t care. Most people brushed their teeth before eating breakfast, and she felt that this would make no difference.

When she opened the door that would lead back to her bedroom, her heart caught in her throat when Chyll turned to look at her. He was leaning against the back wall, arms crossed, just staring at her. Charlie was on the floor a few feet away from him, growling softly. He gave her a small smile.

“Nice room you have. So who was that guy?” he asked. She quickly slammed the bathroom door, then remembered that there was no lock. Her father had meant to call to have a lock installed, but had never gotten around to it. Instead, she leaned against the door, trying to keep it shut.

It did no good. He pushed the door open easily, and her bare feet slid on the condensation-riddled tile floor. She returned to her feet and started backing away from him until her back was up against the wall.

“Stay away from me,” she demanded. He smiled again and shook his head.

“Nope. I’ve waited long enough. You’re coming with me,” he directed. She shook her head, then tried to squeeze past him and run out of her room. He obviously caught her, wrapping his arms around her and holding on tight. She struggled as hard as she could, kicking at his shins and hitting his back. It didn’t do anything, only made him laugh.

“DAD! JOAN!” she screamed out. “Let me go! Put me down!” Charlie was barking at him and snapping at his ankles. He just looked down at him angrily and kicked him to the other side of the room. Charlie’s pained whimpers made her heart sink. “Charlie!”

By the time her father burst into the room, Chyll had already pulled her to the windowsill and jumped out. He landed so lightly, almost like a feather. When she looked up at the window, she could see her father and Joan, both shocked and scared. Then he disappeared with her into the tree.

Once they finally exited the long, twisting tunnel that was hidden within the tree, she found that they were no longer in her backyard; they were in the forest where she, Joan, and Dina had gone exploring for the Balete tree. She never really stopped kicking or screaming, and now she was exhausted from it.

“Relax Princess, we’re almost home,” he assured. When she looked up toward where he was taking her, she found that it was a magnificent mansion, the windows lit up with orange and pink lights. She’d read about this; engkanto lived in amazing mansions that looked like ordinary trees or boulders to the naked human eye. That is, unless the engkanto let the humans see them.

“Put me down!” she demanded. As if to support what she’d just said, a fearsome roar echoed from behind them. Chyll turned around and his eyes met with the large, glowing eyes of the Kapre. It did not look happy. She was relieved when she saw it. “Help me!”

Chyll whistled, and another engkanto came out and took Joy from him.

“Take her up to my room,” he ordered. “I gotta deal with this ape first.” The other engkanto obeyed, and pulled her inside. She tried to struggle away from his grasp, but he held onto her arms with such strength that it hurt. It felt like he was going to pop her muscles just by squeezing them.

He eventually pushed her into a room, then closed and locked the doors behind her. There was really no use in trying to open the doors; she heard the lock, and it sounded strong.

She looked around at the room. It was painted a deep shade of purple and had no photos or paintings decorating the walls. The bed had black sheets and pillows. There was a cherry-wood armoire, a matching dresser, and matching nightstands, and a door that led to what she assumed was a bathroom. She checked; it did. She tried the windows, but they wouldn’t budge, and a look through them showed a tall fall to the ground, about fifteen or twenty feet. She was trapped. She left the windows and took a seat on the bed, trembling. She was worried something like this would happen.

What was she going to do? How was she going to escape? And if she did escape, what of that? He’d probably come after her again. Unless she could get the family to move. Well, that wasn’t a very likely plan either; they didn’t have enough money to move out of the country, and she didn’t know of any family that lived close by.

After a few minutes, the door opened and Chyll stood there. She quickly got up and moved to the farthest corner of the room. Not like it would do any good, but it was the only instinct she had at the moment. He probably liked seeing her in fear, judging from that smile on his face. He closed and locked the door behind himself, then came over to her. She wanted to push herself into the walls, anything to get away from him.

He grabbed her face and squeezed at her cheeks so that they’d appear all puffed up. She didn’t like that.

“Listen Princess,” he started. His smile disappeared and his voice became lower and more threatening. “You’re gonna marry me. The wedding’s gonna be in about a couple days or so.” No, that was the last thing she wanted. She was trying to pull out of his grasp, but he just squeezed her cheeks harder.

“No,” she managed to say. He chuckled a sinister little chuckle.

“Here’s a little incentive so you don’t get cold feet,” he said. “If you don’t agree to my proposal, I’ll strike your family with an illness that no medicine will ever be able to cure.” After he said that, she was able to pull free. She hit her back hard on the wall and fell. Strike her family with an illness that bad? She didn’t want him to hurt her family. But she also didn’t want to marry him. But her family— But—

He just stared down at her as she contemplated on what to do, waiting for a response. When she gave him none, he nodded his head.

“I think I have my answer,” he remarked, and started for the door. No, now he was going to hurt her dad and Joan. Not them; they were the only family she ever had. She jumped to her feet, ran to him, and grabbed his arm before he even had a chance to unlock the door. He looked back at her in surprise.

“Okay, I’ll marry you. But don’t hurt my family,” she pleaded. The words came out choked up, but were still easy to make out. He just stared at her for a moment, and she wondered if he was going to hurt her family anyway. She managed a sigh of relief when he took his hand away from the doorknob.

“That’s more like it,” he commented, but he said it in a way that sounded somewhat unsatisfied.

“Why are you saying it like that?” she asked. He shook his head.

“Nothing,” he said.

“You’re not gonna hurt my family still, are you?” she asked. He shrugged.

“Who knows?” he claimed, pulling his arm free from her grasp. “Stay here. I’m gonna get some food for you.” Wait, she read about this. There’s a certain type of food, a black rice, that’ll make you unable to leave if you eat it. She shook her head.

“No, I-I’m fine,” she evaded. She had an idea that she hoped would work, maybe take his mind off of hurting her family. “I’m, uh, actually...coming around to the idea of staying here.” She tried to give a convincing smile. He didn’t seem to buy it.

“Yeah? That’s why you’ve been avoiding me?” he asked.

“No. That was from…me being uncertain about…if it would work. It wasn’t fear, I swear,” she faltered. “And then, there was the Kapre. I was thinking that maybe it was going to hurt you.” She was thinking fast of what to say, trying to make him believe her acceptance was from actual love and devotion and not to protect her family…and herself.

“Yeah right,” he said, leaning in so their faces were about an inch apart. “I could see it in your eyes: that was fear, not uncertainty and protection.” What to do, what to do, she thought. Only one thing came up in her mind, and she did that: she leaned in and kissed him. He didn’t flinch or pull away, just stood there. His lips felt hard. When she pulled away, that stern expression was still on his face.

“Really, I love you. I do,” she fibbed. “I was just worried that the Kapre would hurt you.” She’d be happy when she saw that stern expression leave his face. And it did after a moment, and that smile returned. She wanted to turn away, but pushed through the urge to do so and smiled back. She hoped it looked like a genuine smile.

“Aren’t you quite the kisser,” he commented, reaching up and pushing away some of her bangs. “You ever been with anyone before? Because you don’t seem to be that type of girl.”

“No,” she claimed. He smiled at her, a pretty genuine-looking smile.

“Not even with that guy from today?” he asked.

“We’re just friends,” she said. “He’s my neighbor.” He nodded, then angled her face up and kissed her again. She kissed him back, trying her best to keep up the façade. Right now, it was her only form of hope that he’d keep his promise of not hurting her family and to protect herself.

The only thing she really avoided doing was going down to dinner. She was sure that he was gonna make her eat that black rice stuff, and if she did, she wouldn’t be able to leave again. She gave him the ‘I’m not hungry’ excuse and promised to wait for him. She knew he wasn’t gonna totally believe that, because he locked the door again. No point in trying to escape; she just sat on the bed and waited. When he did come back, he left the door unlocked and took a seat next to her on the bed.

“The wedding preparations are coming along really well,” he informed. “I think you’re gonna like your dress.”

“I’m sure I will,” she agreed, smiling at him. He smiled back, stroking her hair. She didn’t like anyone to touch her head (not even her dad), but telling him not to touch her would be a bad mistake.

“So, bed time,” he said, placing his hand on her knee. “Gotta get up early tomorrow.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Fitting you for the dress, seeing to the cake, the decorations. It’s gonna be a long day,” he explained. He planted a kiss on her cheek, then went to the dresser and started getting changed. She didn’t want to see him getting changed, and looked down at the floor.

“So where do I sleep?” she asked. She could hear him pause, and she looked back to seem him staring at her with a confused expression on his face. Did she say something wrong?

“Here. With me,” he pointed. “We’re getting married, where did you think you’d be sleeping?”

“Oh, I thought—I’m, uh, just used to being in my own bed. I’m…kinda new to this whole romance and relationships thing,” she explained. I hope that fixed it, she thought. It did; he nodded and went back to changing.

“Understandable. I should’ve figured,” he commented. She let out a silent sigh of relief, then got under the covers. His pajamas looked more or less how she’d expected: a simple t-shirt and some pajama bottoms. He turned off the lights and got into the bed with her. She could tell he was still staring at her; she could feel it.

“Sorry, I-I didn’t know,” she breathed. She felt his hand caress her cheek.

“Don’t worry about it, I get it,” he assured.

“So, you aren’t gonna hurt my family, right?” she asked. She’d said this without thinking, and almost had a mini heart attack when he shot up suddenly. Shit, why did I say that? She could tell he wasn’t happy, and she sat up too.

“Is that all you care about? Your precious little family?” he demanded. He did not sound happy.

“No, I was just wondering. Really,” she claimed. In the darkness, she could make out him shaking his head.

“I should’ve just forced you to eat,” he mumbled. He’s talking about the rice, she thought. I just ruined it. “I knew you didn’t love me. That bullshit about that ape!”

“No, really. I love you and I want to marry you,” she fretted.

“Yeah right,” he said. Think, what’s another way I can make him believe me, she thought. Come on. Again, only one thing came to her mind. This, however, was something she really did not want to do.

“Really, I swear I love you,” she persisted. He didn’t say anything for a moment, and that scared her to death.

“Tomorrow morning, I’m forcing you to eat,” he pointed. No choice, she thought.

“Really, I can prove I love you,” she insisted. She heard him sneer.

“Yeah, I highly doubt that,” he said. Taking a deep silent breath, she stripped off her pajama top, then started working to take off her bottoms and panties. When she looked back towards him, she thought she could see his face. Just surprised, staring at her body.

“Really, I do love you. I can prove it,” she breathed. Now in the darkness, she could see him taking off his pajama top.

“Okay, prove it,” he hummed, moving over towards her.

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