“I can’t believe this….” Leila muttered to herself, drawing the attention of the cab driver in the rearview mirror.
“I’m sorry ma’am?” The driver was an older man, with kind blue eyes that narrowed quizzically at her.
“Oh it’s nothing, just thinking out loud. Sorry,” Leila reassured him, her mind preoccupied as she wrung her hands in her lap.
“Okay. Just making sure, miss,” the cabbie said, his eyes crinkling in the corners as he smiled with his eyes.
“Thanks,” Leila offered a fleeting smile and then looked away once more from his watchful eyes, choosing instead to stare out the window, watching the sunlight reflecting off the river.
On the ride home, Leila felt numb. She didn’t feel cold or hot, sad or happy, angry or calm, she felt absolutely nothing. It was as if her senses were frozen. She tuned out everything around her. Even sound was pretty much non-existent, as if she had hit the mute button. Hugging herself, she tried to ward off the chill that swept over her body. She shivered, not because she was cold, but because she was trying to process all that had she had just gone through.
It was an awful lot of information to wade through. At the moment she felt as if her mind had simply shut down due to a massive overload of emotional distress. She’d still have believed this was just one of her dreams and even so much as tried to wake herself up. Shutting her eyes tight, she pinched her arm. Hard.
“Ouch!” She yelped a bit and opened her eyes just in time to see the cab driver eyeballing her in the rear-view mirror with concern before he turned his attention back on the road, choosing not to ask questions this time.
He probably thought she was a nutcase and was deciding whether or not to pull over on the side of the road and ditch her. Thankfully he minded his own business and kept driving. She laughed dryly and shrugged her shoulders while averting her gaze. Finally he stopped looking at her so intently and focused solely on his driving. Leila let out a shaky breath that she didn’t realize she had been holding in and took out her silver smart phone, scrolling through her contacts before dialing.
“Hey babe, what’s up?” Elaine’s happy-go-lucky voice rang out over the receiver, her positive tone a welcomed distraction that Leila so desperately needed.
“Hey...just having a rough night...how are you?” Leila replied quietly, tugging on her earlobe.
Elaine giggled, which wasn’t the reaction Leila had hoped for and she frowned into the phone, gathering herself before she said anything more, not wanting to say something snarky.
“Sorry, hun. Someone’s distracting me. What’d you say?” Elaine giggled again, her voice breathless.
“Um...is someone there with you?” Leila said, trying to mask her annoyance at her best friend in the whole world, who wasn’t giving her the undivided attention she had wished for.
“Stop!” Elaine shrieked into the phone, giggling once more, “Sorry, sweetie. Yes, do you remember that hot bartender, Jay?”
“Jay? From the Cathedral?” Leila asked, blowing out a frustrated sigh.
“Yes! I had given him my number and he called me. One thing led to another and….you know,”
“Oh wow...that’s unbelievable…” Leila said lamely, trying to sound happy, but not succeeding, “So, I wanted to talk to you about som-”
“Can I call you back? He is soooo distracting!” Elaine interrupted, effectively cutting Leila off in mid-sentence.
“Yeah...sure,” Leila murmured into the receiver, the other line going dead before she even finished her sentence, “She is unfuckingbelievable!”
Tossing her phone back in her purse forcefully, she growled and crossed her arms, her face screwing up in anger. The cab driver sighed quietly, before adjusting the rearview mirror to see her better, his blue eyes concerned, his brows furrowed.
“Are you sure that you’re okay, ma’am? Maybe it’s something I can help with,” he said, addressing her, his offer warming her heart a bit.
At first Leila shook her head and bit her lip, not sure if she should trust a stranger with her problems. After a minute or so she looked up at him, debating whether she should tell him off or tell him what was causing her grief. Finally she decided on the latter, leaning forward in her seat.
“Oh, sure what the hell,” Leila relented, throwing her hands up in the air, “So, what do you do when someone turns out to not be who you thought they were and then immediately told you that they loved you?” she said, eyes full of unshed tears.
The cabbie laughed then, lifting his white cabbie hat to scratch his balding head, “Wowie, laying the hard ones on me right off, huh?”
“You’re right. I’m so sorry.”
“Having a bad night, huh?”
“You could say that….” Leila trailed off, replaying all that had happened in her mind.
“Well,” the cab driver pondered, clearing his throat before continuing, “It depends.”
“Depends on what, exactly?” Leila’s attention got pulled back to him.
“On whether or not he’s worth it. So, is he?” The cabbie turned back to the road, stopping for a red light.
Leila thought a moment, considering his question, “I’m not sure. I mean, I haven’t decided yet. He seems like a dream come true, but he has...secrets,” she said, looking down at her hands.
“Well then, that’s the real question now, isn’t it? Figure that out and you’ll have the answer to your first question. You see?” he said in a lighthearted tone, causing Leila to smile as she caught his kind eyes in the mirror once more.
“I guess it is,” Leila said, her chest lighter than it had been before she got into the cab.
“Well, there you go. This is you. You have a good night, miss. And good luck with that fella of yours,” he said, pulling to a stop and turning in his seat to look back at her with a gentle smile, tipping his hat down at her.
“Thanks. For...listening. And for the ride,” Leila grinned at him, slightly cheered.
“All in a good day’s work,” he said cheerfully, adding, “You’re very welcome.”
Leila thanked him again and paid him before stepping out. Her house had a halo of gold around it from the sun, making it look much more appealing to her. During the cab ride she had dreaded going home alone. Now, in the glimmer of the sunlight, it looked like a warm welcoming.
‘Why are these crazy things happening to me?’ she wondered, confused by all that she had experienced as of late. Between being kidnapped by a crazy paranormal creature and finding out that the mysterious guy she dreamt about was not only real, but also just so happened to be a vampire, her mind was swarming. It was hard to hold onto any one thought, because everything was just going through her mind so quickly.
There were a lot of unanswered questions that just kept repeating in her mind. For instance, the fact that somehow Jessa ended up across the room without Leila touching her made her feel flabbergasted. Leila knew that somehow she had done that, but she didn’t understand how. The memory was a blur, but certain parts she remembered with uncanny clarity.
She walked to her door with furtive steps half-scared to enter her apartment and half-not caring because she was so exhausted. All she wanted to do was bathe and take a nap. She was in no mood to do anything else. Tonight had been enough excitement to last her a week. As she made it up the steps and attempted to unlock her door with shaking hands, she couldn’t help the creepy feeling that she was being watched.
Looking around one last time, she surveyed her surroundings carefully, but ultimately saw no one. Entering her small, run-down apartment, she locked the deadbolts and moved her couch in front of the door for good measure. It probably wouldn’t hold against any vampires, but maybe, just maybe it would. This action made her feel safe, like she had somehow warded off any further attempts for people to ruin her life. ‘Screw the bath, I just need sleep,’ she thought, still in too much shock to actually speak. As she fell into a fitful sleep, she couldn’t help wondering why Nikoli had been haunting her dreams for so long, but she was too exhausted to deliberate this question for more than a millisecond, before her world went dark.