The boiled potatoes were pretty disgusting as they completely lacked salt. Still, I tried, I really tried to keep my promise and eat regularly. I chewed mechanically, suppressing the center of taste somewhere in my brain. The fact that my hemispheres were busy thinking helped me a little.
I deliberately chose this booth for two in the lunchroom as I had a perfect view from here. And it was perfect indeed. Utterly grandiose. I could undisturbedly eye my demon who was reading one of his books again. However, from that slight amused smile which beautified his already beautiful face, I could tell that I wasn’t so inconspicuous anyway.
On the other hand… He had the right to smile like that.
After all, I confessed yesterday, I was forced to admit that I was jealous. I even kissed him. Oh yes, he had every right to beam like that. Though he wouldn’t be very happy if he knew the real reason why I did it. My not quite honest reason.
It bothered me.
It bothered me terribly that some kind of dirty girl was ruining his kisses, the most amazing thing in the world. I had no idea what she was doing in my head, how I could get rid of her. I just knew this wasn’t normal anymore. That it wasn’t normal at all.
And my demon wasn’t normal either. Dammit, he was probably the only person who could help me with my problem. And also, the only person I couldn’t ask for help.
I gave up.
I gave up trying to stop thinking about it. I gave up trying to eat those potatoes. I simply rolled them to the other side of the plate. The meat was also good with salad. Why should I spoil my appetite, right?
Shit, what if I wasn’t normal either?
He couldn’t read my mind after all!
There was one exception.
Or maybe two.
My gaze fell upon the table in front of me, and in an instant, I was sweating quite much as it occurred to me. As I remembered how the heat of his mouth had tasted when he´d kissed me at the edge of his self-control. Right before the girl first appeared in my mind.
I reached for the cola, I really needed to drink something. Just as necessarily as I needed to get those inappropriate thoughts out of my mind. To get him out of my damn uncooperative cortex. I couldn’t let myself…
“I can’t read her mind either, Princess. Unless she lets me herself.”
It hit me like an unexpected thunder on a sultry summer evening. The memory, his own words literally kicked me in my head.
“Mia. Do you remember her?”
In fact, I did not remember her much as I was in some kind of coma when we met. But I did immediately remember what my demon told me about her.
“Let´s say there are people who are able to control or command every source of energy. Or power. Or the elements…”
I forgot about the cola, I totally forgot that I was dying of thirst. Those confused thoughts were suddenly rushing through my head at mad speed.
She, his friend, she could know it, right? She could know why I´d been so obsessed with elements. And maybe she could even know what was happening to me now.
My heart was pounding like crazy when I realized what I wanted to do. Well, to be honest, I had no idea how I managed to stand up. How or when I took that first step and then kept walking. Actually, I probably didn’t realize that much what I was doing until I found myself sitting in front of my demon. My too suspiciously smiling demon.
Those lips of his!
“What is it, Dove?” He asked with a terribly innocent expression. And with the gaze that was undressing me. Without hesitation, he closed his book and set it aside. “Can I do something for you, or are you simply craving my company?”
“I want to talk to Mia,” I blurted out, not even knowing how.
I surprised him; his raising eyebrows told me everything about it. And then a deathly silence fell between us.
It was weird of me, I know. She was his friend after all. We´d never talked to each other, at least not when we both were conscious. And now, out of the blue, I demanded the opportunity to speak with her.
“May I know why?” He asked, not even trying to hide the curiosity in his voice.
“No,” I shrugged. Because I truly didn’t want him to know.
I expected him to turn me down now, I was already searching for the right words to persuade him. But the corners of my demon’s lips twitched in amusement. Right before he spread them in a wide smile. And to my growing restlessness, he really pulled the phone out of his jeans pocket.
I understood that she had answered the call when he rolled his eyes and then laughed: “I’m glad to hear you too, Mia. I see you´ve missed me.”
I don’t know why but it made me burst into a guffaw. Because it looked that the girl had her way with my demon. That she knew very well how to make fun of him. Which automatically meant I liked her.
“Surprisingly not,” his deep voice interrupted my thoughts. “Lara wants to talk to you.”
My previous anxiety returned. I didn’t really like how my demon was watching me. Yet it was nothing compared to the strange tightness I felt when he handed his phone to me. I wasn’t able to even sit still as I raised it to my ear.
“Mia,” I exhaled, preferring to redirect my gaze to the freshmen who looked quite disgusted as they stood at the food counter. I could understand them, today’s menu wasn’t worth much. Not to mention those potatoes.
“What’s up, sweetheart?”
Okey, now I was surprised. Maybe more than my demon was. Because she was like really nice. I must admit that the tone of her voice sounded truly pleasantly. Even though she barely knew me.
“How have you been doing since the Valentine´s night? Eric says that you are alright. Can I believe him?”
Did they talk about me?
Perhaps only automatically, I redirected my attention, I looked up at my demon again to find him still staring at me. He rested his head against his hand, not taking those piercing eyes off me. And then it dawned on me. How stupid I was.
That’s why he didn’t protest at all and let me talk to her! He could hear us; he could hear every word!
“Yes, you can. I´m fine,” I said, telling the truth. “And thank you for saving my life.”
Suddenly, I felt stupid. Cause´ I should have thanked her like three weeks ago. But back then, I didn’t really talk to my demon himself. It would have been quite difficult to get in touch with the witch…
Am I not going insane?
“You´re very welcome,” Mia interrupted my confused thoughts. “What can I do for you?”
“I need to ask you something,” I admitted and got stuck right away as I had no idea how to say it without the hellish envoy to understand. “But …”
And the girl at the other side burst into a pretty loud guffaw: “You don’t want him to hear us, am I right?”
Yes, she was obviously having a great fun. And maybe I would have joined her, maybe I would have laughed as well, if I hadn’t noticed Eric´s raising eyebrows. Instead of amusement, I felt guilty. He didn’t look upset, no, I couldn’t say that. Yet, he wasn’t happy either.
“Something like that,” I confirmed her assumption.
“Fine,” she exhaled. “Ask for his Porsche and come see me.”
Wait, what did she just…?
I couldn’t have heard well; she couldn’t have suggested it. Damn! I couldn’t believe that something like that occurred to her at all! “No, I won’t do that. I´ll drive my car.”
“Honey,” she began, and I immediately recognized from her voice that she seriously meant it. “It´s about 200 miles.”
I don’t care!
I know he once borrowed it to me but that was out of his free will. I would never dare… Hell! Even if we were really married, I wouldn’t dare to ask him for his Babygirl!
“I can manage,” I said flatly.
“Why not? He’ll give it to you. He’ll give you his kidney if you want. Even if it was the last kidney he had left. So why…”
“Mia…” I interrupted her. I was about to tell her that this option was out of the question. I would never take advantage of my demon. Never.
But it silenced me.
The rumble of the key that landed on the table in front of me.
I looked up in front of me to meet his eyes. There was something, there was everything reflecting in his gaze, his eyes were speaking. Yet it was only his quiet words that I heard: “Take it, Dove. Mia´s right.”
He robbed me of the air in my lungs. I was too disconcerted to say something, to think at all. And the guilt I felt deepened. Because he knew now, I had secrets, yet he didn’t reproach me. Instead, he gave me his Porsche.
“Where will I find you?” I sighed defeatedly into the phone, and then I had to pull it away from my ear as his friend burst out laughing. Again.
“I’ll tell you, but there’s one last thing I need to know.” She made me raise my eyebrows, but it was nothing compared to how surprised I was when she continued: “I want you to look at him, Lara.”
“What?” I blurted out.
“C´mon, do it,” she insisted, and I obeyed. “Take a good look at him.”
Well, it wasn’t so hard as he had the face, I could stare at till the end of the world. There was a concern in his expression, I saw it. However, the boy in front of me seemed to be calm.
“Now, tell me,” Mia said, “whether you would be able to resist him when he fixes his puppy eyes on you and wants you to take him with you.”
They really were there.
Those puppy eyes of his.
Those deep brown eyes that always managed to make me feel lost.
“No,” I gave up, admitting the truth. And then I could watch in detail as the corners of my demon’s mouth spread into a beautiful smile.
“Okay,” his friend no longer sounded so enthusiastic. “I check up then if I have any ash wood left.”
I wasn’t really able to answer her, and then, after a while… Well, no, it still didn’t make sense to me.
“Excuse me?” I simply asked.
“We don’t want him to hear us, do we?” She offered me her very logical explanation.
“No,” I shrugged again as I still had no idea what we were talking about.
“Perfect!” That was my very clear answer. “Now, could I talk to Eric again? I´ll tell him where you´ll find me.”
I said goodbye to her and returned the phone back to my demon. I wasn’t very capable of looking at him while he was talking to her. I wasn’t really able to do it even when he finished the call. I waited, I really expected it. That he would scold me, reproach me, something. That I didn’t want to talk to him, that I had secrets.
But it didn’t come.
For the rest of the lunch, not even the whole hour and a half that we were sitting in his car together. He was talking about his passion, about piloting with absolutely beautiful live sparks in his eyes. But to my huge surprise, he didn’t say a word, he didn’t ask about the reason why I wanted to speak with his witch friend at the first place.
I’d say she came somewhere from Puerto Rico, or at least her roots were there. She had a golden skin undertone which perfectly matched her brown, shoulder length wavy hair. Her green, pretty expressive eyes were literally shining as she smiled, seeing us arriving. With those colorful clothes she wore, she looked very exotic. And beautiful as well.
But it wasn’t her appearance that threw me off balance the most.
“Hello, Princess,” she grabbed my hand as soon as I got out of the car somewhere on the God-forgotten rest area. She nodded casually to my demon, but from the way he laughed, I realized that he was used to it. That I should just get on the same wavelength with her.
So first of all, it obviously didn’t make sense to act formally, the girl acted like we were friends since the kindergarten. I guess, I opened my mouth as she was dragging me with her. I don’t know, it really took me few seconds until I collected myself. But then I got stuck anyway as we stopped at a circle on the ground lined of wood.
“Ash wood,” she explained when she noticed my confusion. “It has protective power. As long as we sit inside that circle, no demon can hear us.”
A wooden circle.
Protects against demons.
Not that I didn’t find it weird, not at all. But for the last hour and a half, I tried to prepare myself for the fact that I would probably find nothing ordinary. I simply followed her example and sat down on the ground opposite of her.
“So tell me,” she blurted out at me immediately. At that moment, I wished a little bit that we didn’t skip the formalities before as this seemed pretty hasty to me. But Mia smiled at me right after.
“Don’t worry,” she said kindly, nodding toward my demon, who stayed at the car and who was looking at us. “After everything I’ve been through with him, nothing can surprise me anymore. I’m here to help you.”
I admit, I was relieved, and her kind expression gave me the courage to find my voice. All that remained was to find the right words.
“I …,” I began, and got stuck right away. Because no, I had no idea where to start, how to explain it to her. “I guess I have hallucinations. Or I don’t know what it is, how I should call it. If it happened under any other circumstances, I would go to a psychiatrist. But we’re talking about Eric and his supernatural world here. I don’t want to tell him, so he doesn’t freak out. And you’re the only one I know who knows that demons exist.”
Except for his ex-girlfriend, of course.
She narrowed her eyes at me as if thinking, and then asked me the only question I expected: “What are these hallucinations about?”
“I´m seeing a girl. She´s dirty, like muddy, and scared. And she´s always asking me for help. That’s all. It’s always just a flash, then it disappears right away.”
Mia looked down as she scratched her hair or adjusted her headband, which held her restless hair from falling into her face. “It doesn’t have to be a hallucination, honey. I think you might have visions.”
She made me raise my eyebrows. Now, I really had no idea how to react: “You mean like the future, a vision about the future?”
“Maybe,” she sighed, yet the smile returned to her lips. “Tell me everything you know about it. When does it happen, when does the vision appear?”
I was really hoping she wouldn’t ask this.
“Um, I, ehm,” I needed to clear my throat as there was suddenly a lump growing there. “Um, when he´s kissing me.”
And that crazy friend of my demon burst out laughing. But I couldn’t help myself, I joined her as her cheerful laugh was pretty contagious. Actually, she made me relax, my body finally loosened all the stiffness.
“I think his kisses always trigger it,” I told her my theory.
However, Mia´s gaze fell somewhere between us. It looked like she was thinking, and I allowed myself to take advantage of that brief moment and I checked up on my demon. He was still looking at us, he kept watching us with narrowed eyes. Yet I saw frustration reflected in his face.
The wood probably really worked.
Good to know.
“I don’t think, it’s about his kisses. There’s something else behind it,” Mia made me redirect my attention back to her to see her shake her head.
“What do you mean?” I had to ask. Cause´ I thought it was quite obvious and now, she totally refuted my belief.
“Well, it´s hard to explain. But in Eric´s world, and also in my world, the body, I mean the physical, the tangible stuff is of no importance. There has to be something spiritual, intangible that triggers such reactions. I would be very surprised if his kisses evoked a vision. That would be unusually.”
No, it wasn’t quite clear to me. However, I at least did understand that his kisses weren’t responsible for my hallucinations. Allegedly.
“But in one thing you´re right,” she interrupted my confused thoughts. “It’s tied to him in some way. And that´s why you should tell him.”
Out of the question!
“How do I get rid of it?” I preferred to move the topic to the most important, the only thing which really interested me. Which led me to her.
“That’s what I’m talking about, honey,” she smiled at me. “A vision doesn’t show up accidentally. There is always a reason why they appear. And if you don’t understand its point, it could mean just one thing. You didn’t see all of it. There must be more to that, and it won´t stop until you figure it out. So, the only way to get rid of your vision is to evoke it all. And for that, you need Eric. Which means you should tell him.”
I really needed to replay her words in my mind in order to understand her at first place. But it didn’t change the fact that I didn’t like what I´d just heard.
I was kind of scared to tell him about that.
However, it looked like I couldn’t do anything else than take her advice. I wanted the vision gone. And if it meant that I had to decipher it first, that I had to evoke it all, so be it. Even though I had to tell my demon as his presence was necessary to trigger the whole annoying thing.
“Why me?” I may have blurted out that question. I may have frozen right after that. But I was truly interested in her answer. I simply wanted to know. “I don’t belong into supernatural world, so how come the visions are following me? Can he affect me somehow?”
“Sure,” she nodded. “Exactly as you affect him.”
I affect him?
“How?” I shook my head, letting the confused expression overwhelmed my face. Cause´ no, this was hard to believe. “How do I affect him?”
It surprised me, it did, the whole Mia´s reaction. For a brief instant I had that impression as if she was even more confused, even more surprised than me. Her raising eyebrows were a clear proof of that. “You don’t know how much you affect him?”
What the hell is that girl talking about?
And she sighed softly before she actually laughed. “I’ve tried so long and sometimes too hard to get the Good out of him,” she told me. “And then he met you, and voilà, I don’t recognize the boy anymore.”
What that supposed to mean?
“What are you saying, Mia?” I couldn’t wait for her anymore to explain it to me. I probably stopped breathing, so badly I needed to hear her answer. “Please, I beg you, tell me.”
She pierced me with her eyes as if thinking whether she had the right to talk about it. And at that one moment, I was ready to beg on my knees to get my answer.
“There always must be a balance in Nature, Lara,” she began explaining without me beseeching. And I… I couldn’t tell whether I felt relieved or even more tensed.
“In its natural and also supernatural part. When the leaves bloom in the spring, they have to die during the autumn, “she kept talking, letting me only guess where she was heading to. “When there is Good, there must be Evil. Dark forces versus the Good ones. When someone has the power to create, there also must be someone who has the power to destroy. And Eric… Let’s say…, that he always inclined toward the darkness. That is the essence of demons.”
Who was my demon?
“Do you know the Tale Of Two Wolves, living inside us?” She asked, making me remember that I´d already heard it somewhere. “One is good, one is evil. They´re always fighting, and the one you feed always wins.”
It came my turn to raise my eyebrows. Suddenly, I had like millions of questions. Yet, I obediently waited for her to reveal her point.
“I couldn’t think of a better metaphor. There were always two wolves inside the boy. The good one, buried somewhere truly deep down. A then the evil one that overwhelmed him. Or Eric let him overwhelm him.”
What the hell?
“When I met him, I did, I tried everything possible and impossible to wake the first wolf, the good one in him.” She seemed to be reminiscing inwardly. The bitter smile betrayed her, forcing me to realize that there probably weren’t too happy moments in their history. At least at first. Nevertheless, her expression softened in an instant, and there was a sincere cheerfulness shining from her eyes as she leaned to me. “But I think you managed to do it. I’ve known him longer; I see how he´s changed since he knows you.”
She must have noticed; Mia must have understood how her statement stunned me. She gave me time and space to collect myself by remaining quiet.
“I’m sorry,” I tried to apologize for my sudden inability to speak. “It’s hard to believe it, you know. I don’t know this side of him.”
And there truly had to be a magic in a way she smiled at me now.
I couldn’t tell whether she was right or not, whether I made him change. I had no idea what my demon was like before we met. And the witch, as if reading my thoughts from my face, asked quietly: “So tell me Lara, which side of Eric do you know?”
I let my gaze fall upon the sand or gravel or whatever it was that we were sitting on right now. There were like thousands of thoughts, millions, running through my head. Cause´ no, it wasn’t easy to describe my feelings about Eric. Who he´d become to me. I truly believed that many of them couldn’t even be named.
“When I forget about his ego,” I laughed softly, “he’s very vulnerable inside. There are things he blames himself for. I don’t know what things, but they keep haunting him, making him believe that he’s not good for who he is.”
“And what do you think?” She asked.
“I think he has a beautiful soul,” I didn’t hesitate to say, giving her the most sincere answer. Because despite everything we´d been through, I didn’t change my opinion of him.
And Mia´s magical smile even widened.
“Two days back…” I don’t know why it occurred to me, but it did, and I decided to tell her about it. “We were sitting in the park together and he managed to revive a flower.”
And just like that, his smiling friend got stuck. “What?” She asked breathlessly. “What did you say?”
Yeah, I know, it sounded weird, and her reaction didn’t surprise me at all. If I hadn’t witnessed it, I would have also had hard time to believe it.
“There was a flower, dying because it lacked the sun. And Eric grabbed her in his palms and the flower blossomed. As if he breathed life into her.”
And Mia suddenly jumped on her feet, forcing me to jerk. I didn’t have time; she didn’t give me even a second to ask what was wrong. Because she ran out of our wooden circle, and next thing I know, she was hugging my demon.
She told him something, she kissed his forehead right after that, and damn, I was curious. I was so curious what this all was about. But exactly at this point, I figured out how the ash wood worked.
I heard nothing, nothing at all. Although they might have stood approximately 30 ft away from me, I couldn’t hear a sound. There was a deathly silence around me.
She shone with happiness as she sat down back to me. And I had to ask: “What was that about?”
“Oh, Lara,” she sighed, letting the cheerfulness overpower her expression, her whole posture. “He did it, and I’m so proud of him!”
I couldn’t help but smile as well as she passed her exhilaration on me. But no, I still had no idea what she was talking about. Like truly absolutely no idea.
“The Good must have prevailed inside him,” she finally explained to my confused grimace. “This, the flower-reviving thing you told me about, he wouldn’t have been able to do it if the Darkness had dominated him. He would have rather killed the flower.”
I understood what she was trying to explain immediately. Just as I understood that one thing.
“You really care about him, don’t you?” It literally fell out of my mouth. I regretted asking straightaway, but it was too late.
The girl looked up at me.
“And you love him,” she understood as well, she saw me through.
My gaze fell down again, I was no longer able to face her. I didn’t know what to say but I felt there was no need to say something at all. There was no point in lying or denying. However, for some reason, I didn’t mind her knowing my secret.
“You’re not gonna tell him, are you?” I begged her softly.
She raised her eyebrows at me as if I threw her off balance with my plea. Inwardly, I counted those horrible seconds in my mind when she was studying me.
“No,” she exhaled eventually. “If you want me to, I’ll keep my mouth shut. Although I don’t get why you´re suffocating your love inside you.”
A million-dollar question.
I´d never wanted to talk about my feeling to anyone. Not to Jess, not even to Joel. As if it could make me more vulnerable if I let it out. But this girl, I don’t know… Maybe it was really her magic that made me feel calm. That made me feel safe space around her.
“Because I don’t want to lose him as a friend. Because I don’t want to be his next trophy.” I confessed to her; I described my greatest fear. “How else could it end? He doesn’t feel the same way, I don’t believe he does. With his colossal ego, he would have told me, wouldn’t he? Besides Mia, we have a history, and Eric already hurt me. Not just once.”
She didn’t lower her eyebrows, on the contrary, they shot up to the heavenly heights. For a brief instant, her gaze became unbearable. Even though I had the feeling she wasn’t really looking at me. She was simply thinking. And then, I don’t know, her face reflected recognition. As if something dawned on her.
“Lara, sweetheart,” she half-said and half-asked but then she got stuck anyway. And I may have frozen. Like petrified. Cause´ there was something inside me which clearly indicated that I wouldn’t like what she was about to tell me.
“Okay, I know… Eric´s tough nut to crack. I don’t know what he already told you about himself.”
I somehow felt the urge to gasp for air, yet I didn’t manage to even open my mouth. I didn’t manage to prepare myself for it, that girl broke my hope into thousand shards. With only one sentence.
“There is one thing you should know about the demons though,” she whispered. “They´re not capable of love.”