They sat until the horizon started to turn orange.
“Are you feeling okay?”
She felt dizzy and cold, but she did not want Daimhin to move away from her and take his warmth with him. “I’m feeling okay, just a little woozy.”
He stiffened. “I am sorry; I shouldn’t have kept you out all night.”
“Stop it, Daimhin! This is the last time, the very last time, I could have done anything like this. Do you even understand that in the blink of an eye for most people, but for me, in four days, a large percentage considering my lifespan, I have experienced the feeling of falling in love, I have experienced intimacy, had illicit thoughts, I have had my heart broken and you have told me that you love me. Can you understand how overwhelming this all is? Do you know how much this means to me, and yet you keep saying sorry.” A few minutes later, she felt him laughing behind her. “What? I’m being serious.”
“I almost said sorry again.”
She nudged him playfully.
He kissed her softly on the top of her head. “Let’s go home.”
“The cottage home or home-home?”
He laughed sadly. “Home-home.”
“Sure.” Taylor moved away from him despondently as he stood up and then he took her hand into his. He pulled her up from the ground.
He looked incredibly sad and Taylor could not bear to see the haunted look in his eyes. She moved closer to him. He stiffened. He seemed ready to pull away from her, but then relaxed into her embrace, burying his face in her hair.
She was happy for the chance to give him comfort. She wanted to whisper ‘I wish we had forever,’ in his ear so close to her lips, but that kind of fantasy would only be courting heartbreak. It would be better not to say those words. Once she said them, they would be out there, and later, next week, she would feel the realness of it hurting her. If she never said it, she could pretend it never felt that way.
Without a word, he moved away from her and slipped his hand into hers. They walked back to the Porsche, both of them wondering if Daimhin would ever be able to manoeuvre the car back on to the road again.
Daimhin held her close to him after he opened the door for her. They both knew this was goodbye. As soon as they got back to Londonderry their paths would go in separate directions.
She smiled desolately as she slid into the seat.
Daimhin walked around the car and when he slid into the seat he looked at her sadly. He joked, “This here is going to be our biggest adventure of the whole weekend.”
Taylor laughed as he put the car into reverse.
He placed his arm on the backrest of her seat as he turned himself to see behind the Porsche. As their eyes connected, he winked at her playfully. Leaning across the small space between them, he softly placed a kiss on her forehead.
He reversed the car slowly, but then they both heard a loud scraping noise. Daimhin cringed.
Taylor laughed amused. “Whoever you borrowed this car from is not going to be happy when you take it back to them.”
Daimhin smirked. “I tend to agree with you.”
He inched the car forward until it stopped against a large rock before he reversed it again. “Not a very practical car for going on an adventure, is it?”
Taylor laughed again, nervously. “Will we ever get out of here?” She was starting to get a severe headache. The usual constant throbbing in her head was starting to turn into a sharp pain at the base of her neck. She did not know they were going to stay out all night. Although she usually had a supply of pain pills in her bag, she had already drunk them all. Even though, the instructions on the side of the bottle said: ‘Drink two every four hours. Do not exceed the dosage’, she had moved past following the directions long ago, and now she drank them when needed, popping them like candy.
It felt like hours later when Daimhin eventually turned the car around and then they scraped and cringed their way down the hill. Daimhin’s shoulders were pulling up tightly, and when he glanced across at Taylor, he could see the tension on her face. “We’ll be on the road soon.”
They both sighed loudly when they reached the tarmac and Daimhin turned onto the road. A sharp grinding noise was still coming from somewhere under the car. Taylor and Daimhin glanced at each other and started laughing hysterically.
Daimhin reached for her and folded his hand around her hand on her thigh and gently squeezed it.
Then he pushed the button which opened the roof of the car and the warm sun shone down on them as they drove. The wind blew her hair up into the air and Taylor got lost in the moment. She closed her eyes and it felt as if she was flying.
After a while, Daimhin asked, “Do you want me to put the top back up?”
Taylor opened her eyes. “No, why would you want to do that? It’s such a lovely day.”
He agreed, “It is nice and warm. It’s going to be a beautiful summer.”
Daimhin braked suddenly and Taylor shrieked when it looked as if he was going to crash into the three people standing across the road in front of them. Terror sunk through Daimhin when he recognized Gavin, Carl, and Alex. The car screeched to a halt inches before it would have crashed into them. Daimhin looked back at Taylor in shock, “You can see them?”
Relieved that they did not crash into the people standing in front of the car, she nodded her head.
Daimhin watched in fear as they stepped toward the car and he leaped into action. He jumped onto his seat with both his feet and across to the back seat in a second. He pulled open Taylor’s door, even before she realized what was happening.
He pulled her out of the car hurriedly while he looked at the three advancing figures panicked.
Taylor asked, “What’s going on?”
Daimhin insisted, “I am sorry, Taylor, but we have to run.”
“What?” She looked at him unsure.
As he pulled on her hand, he shot an imploring look at Alex. “Just one more day. Please, Alex.”
Daimhin did not wait for a reply. He started running ahead of Taylor, pulling her by the hand.
Panicked Taylor started running as well. She was not entirely sure why they were supposed to run. She could feel the panic radiating off Daimhin and that same terror propelled her forward. What did Daimhin mean when he said, just one more day? She knew this was their last day, because that was her stipulation, but she had changed her mind, or maybe she did not. She was still indecisive about whether she wanted to see him after she went to the hospital or not. She did not want him to see her at her worst. However, now it seemed Daimhin was not planning on seeing her after today anyway. Were his friends here to make sure he kept to his resolve? Were they here to get him, to rescue him, in case she started getting clingy and needy?
They ran into the field. The knee high green grass gave way to their fast sprinting legs. Taylor looked back across her shoulder and the three figures ran forward to follow them. Taylor stumbled and fell down on her hands and knees. She felt the ground beneath her tilt as the world around her starting spinning.
Daimhin stopped and stepped over Taylor. He was standing between Taylor and the three advancing figures protectively. When Gavin, Carl, and Alex reached them, they stopped. Gavin looked at Daimhin sympathetically for a second and then he grinned. “How long did you think you could hide her from the system, Daimhin?”
Daimhin took a step back as he fumbled in his pocket for his ring. For a second, he panicked when he could not find it, and then his fingers curled around the silver ring with the intricate words inscribed on the band. He slipped his finger into the warm circle, and it slipped onto his finger easily.
Taylor gasped shocked when she saw Daimhin flicker in and out of existence.
Daimhin held up both his hands, his palms facing the three figures defensively. “We don’t need to do this.”
Alex ran forward and punched Daimhin in the stomach, expelling Daimhin’s breath violently from his lungs. Instinctively Daimhin’s arms wrapped around his own waist.
Daimhin recovered quickly as Alex rushed at him again. Daimhin swung his body sideways as his knee came up, hitting the advancing Alex in the stomach. Alex groaned loudly as he crunched into the pain. Daimhin extended his leg and his shin connected with Alex in exactly the same spot where he had just kneed him. Alex fell onto his hands and knees. Daimhin kicked him in the ribs, the impact shuddering up his leg. Alex rolled over groaning, clutching his arms to his midsection.
From the corner of his eye Daimhin saw Gavin storm forward, his arm raised and his hand clenched into a fist. Daimhin deflected the blow by swinging his body sideways and at the same time he brought his arms up. He grabbed hold of Gavin around his shoulders, pulling Gavin down and into him as he brought up his knee. Daimhin felt his knee connect explosively with Gavin’s muscled midriff. Daimhin kneed him again and as Gavin instinctively leaned down into the pain, further into Daimhin, Daimhin elbowed him on his back, between his shoulder blades.
Carl was running toward Taylor and hurriedly Daimhin dropped Gavin to the ground and ran toward Carl. As he reached Carl, he lifted his knee, twisting away from Carl’s knee. The speed of Carl’s fist passing Daimhin’s ear made a whistling noise. Daimhin turned away from Carl and with the back of his foot he kicked Carl in the knee. He heard the bone crack and Carl went down. For good measure, Daimhin gave him another kick in his midriff.
Adrenaline was pumping through Daimhin and he was in a rage.
Taylor took a loud audible breath and then the word, “No,” whispered over her lips.
Daimhin looked down at her.
She glanced up at him afraid and then her eyes shot past him.
Daimhin did not have time to wonder if she could see him as he followed her gaze.
Behind Daimhin, she saw a hazy black figure glimpse in and out of view. She blinked her eyes because the black figure looked like the pictures she had seen of the Grimm reaper. It stood there, its red eyes burning into hers. The black coat or dress it was wearing rippled in a non-existent breeze. It held its sickle up high and a flash of lightning crackled through the cloudless sky and flashed a brilliant light on the silver blade part of the sickle.
The guardian from the Covert Operations division stood staring across the distance at both of them. He was instructed to keep his distance from Taylor Fergusson and only to ensure the anomaly in the system was restored. With the bolt of lightning on his issued weapon he had sealed her fate completely, and no matter what Daimhin did from here on out, Taylor would die whether he touched her or not.
Taylor fell down. The pain in her head was unexpectedly excruciatingly sharp and piercing. She felt a tingling up the left side of her body and black spots were dancing in front of her eyes.
She heard Daimhin’s voice as if he was calling her from a thousand miles away. He fell down next to her as he slipped the ring off his finger. He held her face between his palms. “Can you walk to that tree there?”
Taylor could not speak, the pain in her head seemed to erase everything else. It was the only thing in her world. The pain cloaked her. “Daimhin, I need you,” she managed to say. The words stole all her energy.
Daimhin picked her up and she winced at the pain of his hands gripping around her back and under her knees. While he ran with her to the tree, she bounced in his arms. He could not keep her steady and he was filled with panic, because he was going to lose her. She had always been the only thing he had ever wanted. Every pain filled moan escaping her lips twisted around his heart.
Gently he laid her down on the grass under the only tree for miles around. “I will be back now. It will be quicker for me to get to town if I … If I leave you here. You’ll be okay now because the choice has been taken from me.”
Taylor could not think straight, she smiled faintly. She was not entirely sure what was going on. She did know, however, that everything had changed. She knew her time was almost here – she was dying. She panicked as she felt a coldness coil itself in the pit of her stomach.
Confused she was looking up at the blurry image of Daimhin standing up in front of her and then he was gone. Taylor blinked her eyes rapidly, trying to get rid of the blurry film that seemed to be covering them. Where did Daimhin go? Did he leave and was she going to die alone – here in the middle of nowhere?
Within seconds, Daimhin appeared in the village. He pulled his ring from his finger and pushed it deep into his jeans pocket, and then he slipped into the first vacant vehicle he saw. He started the car without having to use a key. He backed out of the parking bay and drove as fast as he could to where he had left Taylor. When he saw the tree where he had left her, he turned the car off the road and bounced and bumped across the field until he reached her.
He took off at a dead run. Seeing her crumpled by the tree made his heart explode in his chest.
Taylor blinked in and out of consciousness.
He lifted her without conscious thought and scooped her up in his arms as he hurried back to the car. As he was leaning over her to push the seatbelt buckle into its slot, she opened her eyes. She smiled – not a wide smile – just a pulling at the corners of her mouth. “Daimhin? I don’t want to die alone.”
His stomach constricted at her pale face. “I’ll never leave you.”
“It hurts,” she said faintly.
Softly he placed his lips against her forehead and he murmured, “You’ll be okay. I promise.”
He stepped back and closed her door quickly. He skimmed across the hood of the lime green VW Beetle.
As he slid into the seat, he started the car. He drove too fast. There was no motorway route to get back to Londonderry. He was weaving the car around other vehicles going too slow in front of him, slamming his fist into the horn to get them to move out of his way. When they eventually reached a wider road, wide enough for cars to go both ways, the intermittent white line in the centre of the road turned into a blurred solid line.
As he overtook a slow construction vehicle, he barely missed a truck coming from ahead. He glanced at Taylor often, looking for the slight rise and fall of her chest.
He did not want her to die and her soul to become lost in The Valley. He could have touched her, he could have escorted her through The Valley, but selfishly he wanted to hear the verdict from his deliverance hearing. He wanted to know if there was a possibility he would meet Taylor again after she left here.