Chapter 16: The River
In between the lines,
Is the only place you’ll find,
What you’re missing,
That you didn’t know was there
--Next Year, Two Door Cinema Club
The day after the dance I found myself perched on Gigi’s couch in her basement like I had been the day after the Christmas party. Gigi was currently upstairs popping some popcorn for us so I was just scrolling through Netflix absentmindedly, I was supposed to be choosing a movie for us but I was having a hard time focusing. My attention span was very short today. I hadn’t heard anything from Todd at all, not even a text letting me know that he had gotten home okay. I was still kind of upset with him anyway, he hadn’t seemed like that much of a jealous person a few months ago. I suppose we didn’t know each other as well as I had thought we did. Gigi came pounding down the stairs and plopped onto the couch next to me. She watched me scroll through a few more lines of movies before saying anything.
“Okay, what’s going on?” She asked. “You’re not even really looking at the screen, you’re just staring off into space. So out with it.”
“I haven’t heard anything from Todd at all,” I said. “And I don’t know how I feel about that. On one hand I miss him, on the other I don’t because I’m upset with how he acted last night.” Gigi nodded and tossed a piece of popcorn into her mouth. “I wasn’t even planning on talking to Daniel last night, Gigi, he pulled me onto the dance floor without me saying yes. I tried explaining that to Todd but he just got angry and jealous, he didn’t listen to what I had to say. And that upsets me.”
“So what are you going to do?” She asked with a mouthful of popcorn.
I had been trying to figure that out all last night after I got home. I spent all night in my room and I then I had a difficult time falling asleep last night because my mind wouldn’t shut up. My desire to be close to Daniel was beginning to override my wanting to be with Todd, it was forcing me into a corner where I would have to make a choice. And soon.
“I’m going to have to choose,” I said. She nodded once again and then took the remote from me.
“Well I can’t tell you what to do or try to influence you in any way. I just want to see you happy, Elisa, whether that’s with Todd or Daniel is for you to decide. And you know that I’ll support you no matter what you choose. I know I’m not Daniel’s biggest fan but if you think that you’ll be happy with him then so be it. Just promise me that if you do become a vampire I’ll still be your best friend.” She said raising her eyes brows at the last comment.
“Oh, Gigi! Of course, you’ll always be my best friend.” I said with a grin. “No one would ever be good enough to replace you.”
“Good, now do you still want to watch a movie? Because if so then I think I’m going to choose, you’re taking too long.” She laughed.
We ended up ditching Netflix and watching her blu-ray copy of Kiki’s Delivery Service instead, Studio Ghibli is always a great decision. After we finished the movie it was still too early for dinner at home and I found myself wandering the streets of Avery before heading home. Even though it was in the middle of February it was already 50 degrees outside and the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds. I need to give Daniel his jacket back at some point too. I thought to myself.
I had considered going to Todd’s, but he lived outside of Avery and was too far to walk. That would have required me to go home and get my parents car, which I didn’t really want to do. Instead I started walking towards the James River, I liked to go there and think when I had a lot on my mind. The river was always soothing to me.
In another ten minutes I pushed through the trees and walked out onto the sandy beach lining the river’s edge. I took a deep breath, relishing the freshness of the river air. It was a little colder by the river so I zipped up my jacket and started walking along the shore until I found a large log along the edge to sit on. This section of the river was relatively flat and the surface appeared green blue and glassy, the exact opposite of me at the moment.
I sat quietly for a few minutes, enjoying the light breeze coming off of the water’s surface. Silently I played the year’s events so far over in my head, from the moment Daniel barged into my house back in August up until last night at the dance. Thinking about last night still left a sour note in my mouth. Maybe in a way Todd and Daniel were more similar than I had originally thought, Daniel had over reacted at the Homecoming dance just like Todd had last night. The only difference was that Daniel had at least apologized afterwards. Daniel always seemed to be apologizing to me about something.
“Ugh,” I groaned. “What am I going to do?” I buried my face in my hands and groaned again. I know I like Todd, but I’m starting to think I’m falling in love with Daniel instead. I heard rustling in the grass behind me and when I opened my eyes there was a large shadow eclipsing my own. I turned around and, surprise, surprise, Daniel was towering above me dressed in his usual dark jeans, black boots and navy blue pea coat.
“What are you doing here?” I asked bluntly.
“I did not mean to intrude,” He started. “I was on my way home from picking up my mail at the post office when I saw you walking through town towards the river. I wanted to see how you are feeling.” Without waiting for an invitation Daniel seated himself on the log next to me. “The river is very calm today,”
“Yeah,” I hesitated in responding. “I like to come here to think when I have a lot on my mind.” We sat in a comfortable silence for the next few minutes watching the river flow south east towards the Chesapeake Bay.
“Well, if you want to be alone then I will go.” Daniel stood to leave and I reached out grabbing onto his hand.
“No, stay, please.” I gently tugged on his hand and pulled him back onto the log. “I was enjoying your company.” I said, my cheeks filling with blush. The breeze swirled around us, Daniel’s signature scent circling around me and filling my nostrils. Daniel seemed to freeze next to me. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” He hesitated. “just then you smelled, euphoric almost.” He said. I blushed again and looked downstream, away from him. Daniel squeezed my hand gently, his gaze sliding over to me. I hadn’t even realized that we were still holding hands. Before I could remove my hand from his he entwined our fingers, locking them together. Once again in our comfortable silence the two of us looked out across the river together. The river was fairly wide here, so wide that you couldn’t see the opposite shore. Sometimes when I sat here I would picture myself as a girl in colonial times living in Jamestown on the other side of the river. I could picture the hustle and bustle inside the fort, maybe meeting an Indian in the forest, washing and sewing clothes. I don’t know, I had an active imagination sometimes, maybe that’s where my art talent came from.
“What are you thinking about?” Daniel asked pulling me out of my daydream. It was weird, I had been stressed with all of my different thoughts until he had gotten there. It’s like I was calmer with him there.
“Oh, I was just day dreaming.” I said.
“What it must have been like to be a girl back in the colonial times, like when Jamestown was first settled.” I said. Daniel tried to muffle his laughter but failed. “What?” I asked scowling at him.
“Nothing,” He chuckled. “I was not expecting you to be dreaming about that. Such an odd thing for a modern American 17-year-old girl to be thinking about. But then again, I suppose you are not an everyday kind of girl.” He squeezed my hand gently once more and smiled down me. I looked up at his face, taking everything in. His deep blue eyes, crooked nose, strong chin, and chin length black hair. I noticed that he had a little bit of stubble growing and I felt an overwhelming desire to reach up and touch it.
His eyes went wide and he froze in place when I did. My fingertips grazed the prickly hairs along his jaw slowly from his ear down to his chin. His eyes fluttered closed and I let out a small sigh of content. Everything about this moment just seemed…right somehow.
“Elisabeth,” He breathed. When his eyes opened they looked like blue fire, releasing my hand from his Daniel reached up and brushed a stray lock of hair from my face and tucked it behind my ear. I blushed at the gesture and looked down at the sandy ground.
“I was so jealous when I found out that you and Zoey were going to the dance together,” I said softly breaking the silence. “And back in December when I found the letter you left for me in your room, I got so upset. Like, I had known that you left, but I guess when I found it that made it seem concrete. It made it seem like you weren’t coming back at all and that made me miserable.”
“Why were you jealous?” He asked.
“I…” Oh, God, he was really going to make me do this. He knew damn well what I was about to say, he could probably smell it for all I knew. “I think I like you, Daniel. Like, really like you.” I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding in and suddenly his hands were in my hair and his lips pressed tightly against mine. Kissing him felt like fireworks exploding in my stomach, or a wildfire. I closed the distance between our bodies and sat so our legs were snug against each other and steadied myself with my hand on his knee. His hands left my hair and instead he cupped my jaw and softened the kiss, his new stubble scratching my sensitive skin.
After a few seconds he pulled away although I was reluctant. “Wow,” I breathed. Daniel smiled and leaned in for another much briefer kiss, it still set me on fire though. At this point the sun was beginning to set and I knew that I had to get going home. “I’m going to have to go home, it’s starting to get dark.”
“Oh, my dear Elisabeth, I am a creature of the night, you will be safe with me.” Daniel said with a smile. Why did everything feel so much more right with him than it did with Todd? Was it really because I was a vampire just like him?
“You could always walk me home. I mean, if you wanted too of course.” I said blushing. “If not then that’s okay too.”
“I would be more than happy to accompany you home, Elisabeth.” Daniel stood and held his hand out to me. We continued to hold hands as we walked back towards town.
“Can I ask you a few questions?” I asked him before we reached the edge of town.
“So what’s myth and what’s reality when it comes to vampires? Obviously you’re fine going out in the daytime, and you sleep in a bed. Do vampires even sleep?” I asked.
“Yes, going out in daytime is not a problem for any of us, we do sleep, but usually only about once a week. We do not need much sleep at all. Honestly I dislike the sleeping in a coffin myth the most.” He said scowling. “It is so silly,”
“Does food still taste good and do you need to eat food at all?”
“With food it depends. There are some foods that taste as good to us as they do to any human, but there are others that are awful. Mainly vegetables, vampires are predators after all so when we do have to eat food we stick with meats. However, eating food is not a necessity for vampires, we really only need blood to survive.”
“And your fangs? Do they, like, hide or something?”
“Our fangs mainly stay retracted in our gums, we only use them when they are necessary.” He said.
“Like when you bite me?” I asked softly. His gaze met mine and he nodded, sending a shiver up my spine and into my gums. My mouth didn’t feel full or anything, but just thinking about Daniel biting me seemed to trigger a reaction.
“You do not have anything to worry about, Elisabeth. I won’t bite you unless you want me to; I am going to wait for your permission.” He said.
“Okay,” I said softly. Daniel squeezed my hand, but I couldn’t ask any more questions because we were in town now.
In another 15 minutes we were at the end of my drive way, the sun halfway set below the horizon. We were still holding hands, his hand felt cool against my own warm hand. “Thanks for walking me home.” I said. “Um, I’ll give your jacket back to you on Monday I guess.” I suddenly felt so awkward, I didn’t know what to say.
“Okay, I hope you have a good evening, Elisabeth.” As usual he brushed his lips against my hand causing the blush to rise up in my cheeks. “You need to stop blushing so often, it is harder to resist you when you do that.” He bent down and locked his lips with mine quickly. “Goodnight, Elisabeth,” Daniel said against my lips. He turned and began walking up the street.
“Goodnight,” I called after him. Oh God, I was in too deep.