The first tear runs down my cheek and settles on my jaw. He takes my hand, which has been fiddling nervously with the seam of my pants, into his own.
I sob involuntarily. “My dad looks so happy now, but it feels as if he just left me behind. You know what I mean? It is as if I meant nothing, just like the love he once had for my mom means nothing. It breaks my heart.”
I pull my hand from his and I sink my face into my palms. I cry, even though I do not want to. I cannot help it. I cannot keep the tears back, no matter how hard I try to control them.
At first Jayden just sits there with his arms draped across his thighs, and then slowly he embraces me and he pulls me closer into him. He plants a light kiss on the top of my head and strokes my back comfortingly.
Finally, when I am able to stop the tears, I pull back from him slowly, self-consciously.
He holds my face between his palms. With his thumbs, he gently wipes the remaining tears from my cheeks. He asks concerned, “Are you okay now?”
I roll my eyes. “Yeah. Sorry.”
He smiles apologetically. “There is no need for you to be sorry. I am sorry though about your parents, but it is not always like that. Sometimes when we fall in love, it is forever. I think Kieran already told you the story of the girl and the two young men who were cursed. Well, that one young man has loved this one particular girl for so long now sometimes he feels like he is drowning, and you, Heather, you will find the strength to get through your parent’s divorce. I promise you, with all my heart, that one day you will find true love and it will be forever.”
I sniff while I look at him stunned. “I thought it was just a fairy tale. A story he told me to distract me from telling me about magic and how he managed to make that car look as if it did not crash into him.”
“No. Unfortunately, that is a true story.” He moves his hands away from my face and with a dismal grin he fixes the crown of daisies on my head, which were starting to slide to one side. “Come we cannot stay here too long, your dad will be worried when he gets home and you aren’t there.”
I sigh. “Must I?”
He stands up and pulls me up with him. “You must. It is almost midnight and time for fair maidens to be fast asleep in their beds.”
We walk back through the tall grass and then along the dirt road silently. He leads the way and it is as if he can see in the black darkness surrounding us.
As we get closer to his car, he asks, “So why do you always wear black?”
I laugh softly. “Why do you always wear black?”
“I am serious here. Is it some fashion thing, or are you trying to be Goth? You know there is more to being Goth than just wearing black clothes.”
I say seriously, “The day after my parents announced the death of their love, I went into mourning.”
He stops walking and pulls me by my hand closer to him. I am standing mere centimetres away from him and as he lifts his hand, he folds a strand of my hair behind my ear. He says in a soft, unyielding voice, “Love is not dead.”
“I have come to realize it actually had nothing to do with love in the first place. It is really about feeling safe and protected.”
He steps away from me slowly with a perplexed look on his face. “Come, it’s getting late.”
We drive back to Slane in comfortable silence. I watch the headlights of the car wash across the road ahead of us. The lights reflect off the trunks of the trees along the side of the road. I think of the poor mothers and their children who worked along these roads during the famine. Their lives must have been so intolerably difficult. I think about Salem and all those innocent people who were accused, brutally tortured and then executed. I think about the story Kieran told me, which Jayden confirmed to be the truth.
I ask Jayden apprehensively, “Why did Kieran tell me that story about Salem then if it wasn’t to distract me from what happened that day the car almost drove into me?”
He exhales long and slow. “Well, um, you are actually the girl in that story.”
“I have started to realize that, but not literally though.”
“Yes. Literally, it is you.”
“It is as Kieran told you. Exactly, as he told you.”
“No.” The word whispers over my lips. I stare ahead at the beams of the light for a moment as the idea sinks into me. I ask him, “I am supposed to choose between who?” Shocked, I struggle for breath as I grasp the situation. I answer my own question quietly, “You and Kieran.”
I see him glance at me apprehensively. “Who am I supposed to choose, then?”
“I am not allowed to say.”
I exclaim frustrated, “Why not?”
“That is just the way it is. How can I tell you whom you are supposed to choose? You are supposed to choose the one you love, the one you feel connected to, the one you want to spend all your days with.”
Strangely, him telling me I am the girl from the story does not frighten me. I think I have had a weird suspicion all the time. Everything has been so eerie lately. Magic, witches, shadows and slowly my subconscious have pieced it all together. I cannot believe I have played a part in a story that has been going on for centuries, and although it seems profound and impossible, something inside of me accepts it unconditionally.
How am I supposed to know which one is the right one though?