Leif kissed my cheek before leaving me at the door of my English Literature class. I’d started riding to school with him every morning. Each morning it had been increasingly more difficult to leave the presence of Dank and walk into the realness of Leif. After sleeping with Dank’s voice singing in my ear all night, I seemed to crave his presence even more.
An intimacy now existed between us. After having his hands on my body and his lips against my skin, nothing had been the same. He’d lain down beside me last night and held me against him as I fell asleep. I needed Dank. The words he whispered in my ear at night assured me he wanted me too.
He needed me but he was letting some unseen barrier stand between us.
I started over to my desk when I noticed the one behind it remained empty. It was Dank’s usual spot. He would be here soon. I settled into my desk and went ahead and found where we had left off on Friday. Every time I saw someone step in the door from my peripheral vision I glanced up to see if it was Dank. Kendra’s bubbly voice and bouncing blond head came through the door, and he followed her, carrying her books. My gut twisted into a painful knot. I forced myself to look away. He’d said he didn’t like blonds yesterday but the way he gazed down at her affectionately said something else entirely. I stared down at the open book in front of me, not taking in any of the words. I was waiting for Dank to sit down behind me. He never did. Mr. Brown walked into the room whistling and smiled at the class.
“Ah, good to see such excited faces this morning. Isn’t English Literature a joy? What better way to wake up?” he asked in a jovial tone. He turned and wrote this week’s assignment on the board. I wanted to glance back and see where Dank sat today but I refused to let myself. I could feel him staring at me, no doubt waiting to see if I would search for him. Well, I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. Besides, he was probably playing with those long blond locks of hair he claimed to hate. He’d whispered that he wanted me. That I was the only one he’d ever needed.
“Can anyone tell me one of the major themes we learned while studying The Eumeides?” Wanting desperately to get my mind off of Dank, I held my hand in the air. Mr. Brown smiled and nodded, “Alright then, Miss Moore.”
“Conflict between the old and the new, between savagery and civilization, between the primal and the rational,” I replied and Mr. Brown clapped his hands.
“Very good. Now, an example of this theme?” He glanced around the room and I raised my hand again. Mr. Brown raised his eyebrows, no doubt in surprise at my sudden desire to join in on class participation. “Pagan?”
“The progression of old to new gods. Zeus overthrew the older generations of gods, and among those ancient deities were the Furies. The Furies became outcasts.” I stopped, not wanting to go any further.
“Good, good, very good. Now, can someone other than Pagan please explain where Apollo fell into this?” The room went quiet and someone giggled. “Kendra maybe you could help us out with an answer,” Mr. Brown aimed his frown back toward the apparent source of the giggle.
“No sir, I have a life outside school work. Not all of us spend all of our extra time studying and tutoring in order to snag a boyfriend.”
Another burst of giggles erupted and Mr. Brown tilted his head to one side. “I don’t believe that’s the proper answer, Kendra, you’ll receive a low mark for today’s participation.
Now, can anyone else tell me or shall I ask Miss. Moore again to help us out?”
“Apollo is a symbol for the male, the rational, the young, and the civilized. The Furies represent the female, the violent, the old, and the primal. Aeschylus captures a mythical moment in history, one in which the world was torn between a savage and archaic past and the bold new order of Greek civilization, the young Olympian gods, and rationality.
The difficulty of the struggle between these two worlds is dramatized by the cycle of violence in the House of Atreus and the clash between Apollo and the Furies.” No one giggled after Dank finished. There was no question in my mind, he’d done that for me. I turned this time to find him exactly where I’d expected. He was seated behind Kendra whose expression was so pinched you would have thought someone just slapped her. He gave me a wink and flashed that one perfect dimple. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.
“Very well done, Mr. Walker. Now, let us hope the rest of you grasp this piece of literature as well as Pagan and Dank because today we embark upon a journey even further into this world created by Aeschylus.”
Having Dank answer more elaborately than I to show there was nothing wrong with knowing the answers helped me stay focused on Mr. Brown’s discussion. Still, Dank remained at the forefront of my mind.
* * * *
At the end of the day I reached into my locker and pulled out the books I needed for homework. Two warm hands slid around my waist.
“I missed you,” Leif whispered in my ear and I turned my head back to him and smiled.
“I’ve missed you, too, but aren’t you supposed to be at practice?”
He shrugged. “I was on my way when I thought about you standing at your locker and how easy it would be to take a detour to come see you.”
“I’m glad you did. Now get to the field house before the coach makes you run suicides for being late.” He bent down and kissed me gently on the lips. “I’ll see you tonight,” he said, stepping back and turning to jog toward the front doors. I stood watching him until he was out of sight, and then I sighed and turned back to close my locker. Today had been trying and I just wanted to go home.
A shiver ran down my spine and I froze. It wasn’t a good shiver like the ones Dank caused. It was another kind of shiver. The kind I remembered from once before. Fear caused my heart to pound wildly inside my chest. I took two deep breaths before turning around slowly. The blond soul stood watching me from across the hallway. She was studying me as she had done the last time I’d seen her. I swallowed against the nausea of overwhelming fear rising in my throat, almost suffocating me. I was alone in an empty hallway. Why had I not left with Leif? I backed up toward the front doors but they were too far away to make me feel safe.
She laughed, that tinkling sound sending chills down my arms. Every step I took back she took forward.
“Leave me alone.” I grimaced at the weakness of my demand. It was obvious I was terrified.
She raised her eyebrows in surprise. “I can’t,” she said as she approached. I thought of turning and running but I knew she would catch me easily enough.
“Go away or I’ll tell Dank,” I said with very little conviction as my voice wavered. Her tinkling laughter rang out again.
“He is currently busy with the blond one. I don’t know why he is putting this off,” she said when she was only a few steps away from me. I pulled my book bag closer to my chest and fought the urge to scream.
“Dank,” I whispered past the terror squeezing my throat, hoping somehow he would hear me. The blond glanced around as if panicked, but only for a moment. Then her angelic smile returned. “Like I said, he is busy.” She reached out a hand to touch me and I cringed, expecting the cold feel of her hands.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Dank’s voice made me go weak with relief. His protective arms wrapped around me and I sank against him.
“Leave this alone. It is for no one else to decide.” Her hauntingly-beautiful eyes glared up at him with a fierceness that chilled me. “It was never your decision to make. The rules are as they have always been. It will have to be.” His arms tightened around me. “You’re going to leave and stay away from her. If you come near her again I won’t forgive easily.” A flash of fear crossed her eyes and she stepped back farther from us and then she was gone.
My legs went limp with relief. Dank pulled me up closer against him to keep me from sinking to the floor. “Did she touch you?” he asked in a cold voice I hadn’t been expecting.
I shook my head, not sure my voice was ready to work. I turned my head to look back at him. He was staring down the hall. I could hear a low sound in his chest as he snarled at the now empty hallway.
“Come on, I’m taking you home.”
I let him keep his arm wrapped around my waist to steady me as he led me out into the parking lot. He stopped in front of topless black jeep and opened the passenger side door. I had no idea he even had a vehicle but then again nothing should surprise me at this point. He lifted me into the seat like I was a child and walked around to climb into the driver’s seat.
“How did you know?” I asked once we were out of the school parking lot. He glanced over at me.
“I heard your fear...and then I heard my name and the desperation in it was…” he stopped and glared back at the road. I waited in silence for him to finish but he remained silent.
“It was what?” I asked in a whisper.
He let out a frustrated sigh. “Terrifying. Knowing you were that scared...hearing the fear was unlike anything I’ve ever felt. I was ready to cease the existence of whatever was hurting you. Then I saw her and knew it was something I couldn’t control without, without...doing something that would be close to unbearable to me, but more bearable than the alternative.”
I heard his words but none of them made sense. I frowned and shook my head, wanting to understand and he reached over and took my hand in his. “Pagan, please don’t ask for what I can’t give you. I can give you anything but the answers to those questions.”
I closed my eyes and turned my face away from him. I wanted to hate him for not telling me who he was or what he was. I wanted to understand him, to understand this, but he wouldn’t or couldn’t tell me anything.
The moment the jeep stopped outside my house, I grabbed my bag and hopped out. I needed distance. Nothing about this made any sense and I wanted to understand. I turned to slam the door and saw Dank standing at his jeep with a defeated expression. I paused. The urge to call out to him was so strong, but I resisted and closed the door softly. I could not understand why he refused to explain what was happening to me. I wanted to hate him but he’d claimed a part of my soul and there was nothing I could do to stop my feelings for him. His appearance in my life had started all of this craziness. He offered to give me anything in the world other than the answers I wanted and needed. I threw my book bag down on the kitchen counter and plopped onto a bar stool. Tonight Leif would come over and we would work on his speech for this week. It would all be very normal teenage stuff. I would pretend I didn’t live in a world of haunting paranormal activity. Maybe I would even cook him dinner. All very normal, all very real.
I finished cutting up the quesadillas as the doorbell rang.
I grabbed the plate and sat it down on the kitchen table on my way to the door.
Leif grinned and stepped inside. “Whatever I smell is heavenly. Please tell me it’s for me, because I’m starving.” I stood on my tippy toes and kissed him chastely on the lips before heading back to the kitchen to get drinks from the fridge.
“I made quesadillas tonight. Do you want sour cream or guacamole?” I asked, turning back to look at him.
“Sour cream,” he replied. All very normal. No crazy blond souls trying to scare the bejesus out of me. Just me and my boyfriend, working on our homework.
“Okay, we eat first and then work on your speech about—
what is it this week?” I asked as I sat the drinks, sour cream, and guacamole down on the table.
“The importance of a college degree,” he answered, smiling with a quesadilla already half way to his mouth.
I sat down across from him. “That should be easy enough.”
Leif nodded and took another bite of a sour cream-smothered quesadilla. Movement from across the room caught my attention. Startled, I started to stand up, ready to bolt when Dank sauntered into the room. He saluted me and walked up the stairs to my room. I watched him go, feeling sadness overwhelm me. I’d been rude this evening and he’d come to me anyway. Secretly I’d been worrying he wouldn’t show tonight after the way I walked away from him. I glanced over at Leif who was taking a swig of his drink.
“Um, I need to run upstairs and get something, I mean do something. I’ll be right back, uh, go on ahead and eat until you’re full.” He smiled and took another bite. I headed back up the stairs and walked into my room, immediately glancing toward the bed to find it empty. Instead of lounging on my bed I found him in my chair with the guitar in his hands.
“Hey,” I said, not sure what I’d come up here to say. His grin showcasing his dimple made me shiver.
“Hey,” he replied as he strummed at the guitar. I stood for a moment and listened to him play the tune I’d heard him sing at night when he thought I was asleep. I sat down on my bed and watched him play. He was a contradiction. A soul who wasn’t a soul but could do things a soul could do. A rock star that was supposed to be in a band that he was never with. I hadn’t thought of any of this before now.
“Dank, why’re you here? If you sing in a band, I mean, what brought you here?” He smiled sadly and stared back down at the guitar in his hands.
“I do sing with the band when they have gigs. Cold Soul isn’t a headliner yet. I can come and go easily, Pagan, you know that. Keeping up with my other life is easy enough.” Of course he had it all under control. He was a jack of all trades: High school heart throb, singer in a band, the ability to become like a ghost and my bodyguard. His dark blue eyes glanced back up at me. “Why are you up here when Mr.
Wonderful is downstairs?” he asked and the strumming ceased.
I shrugged. “I don’t know, you just looked like you might need me,” I said, hating the way the words sounded. He sat his guitar down and stood up. I watched as he knelt down right in front of me. I sat hypnotized as he traced my jaw line with his finger and then gently touched my lips. Desire surged through my body so strongly I grabbed a handful of the quilt I was sitting on.
“I need you. Never doubt my need for you. But right now is not the time to explore my need. You have a love-struck boy downstairs needing your assistance with his homework,” he said gently as he stood up and stepped back away from me before turning his back on me and vanishing. I stood in my empty bedroom and took several deep breaths to steady my racing heart before heading back downstairs to help Leif write his essay. I realized my hands were trembling when I closed my bedroom door behind me. If just his touch made me react so strongly, how much more would his actual lips on mine affect me? I closed my eyes against the need coursing through me and mentally shook myself.
Later that night, after my shower, I walked into my room and found Dank already sitting in the corner chair, strumming on his guitar. He didn’t glance up at me.
Disappointed that he didn’t seem to want to finish what we’d started earlier, I pulled the covers back on my bed and slipped inside. I wanted to ask him why he’d left but he didn’t appear to want to talk to me. Had he seen Leif kiss me goodnight downstairs? Was he upset? I hadn’t heard the familiar growl that normally meant Dank was witnessing Leif kiss me. It no longer made me smile. It chipped away at my heart a little. I didn’t like the thought of hurting him.
“Dank,” I whispered in the darkness but he didn’t look up at me. His voice joined the music and I fought the urge to close my eyes and drift off into the sleep the comfort of his voice seemed to induce. I watched him, silently pleading with him to look at me. Had I hurt him?
“Close your eyes, Pagan, and stop worrying about me.
The life I’ve placed myself into is mine to endure. You have no reason to worry that you cause me pain. You do the exact opposite to me than what you fear.”
I watched him, not sure what he meant by my doing the opposite.
“As for the kissing, you’re right, I don’t like to see it. If I choose to watch it, it’s my fault. I’ll deal with it.” He lifted his head from the guitar in his hands this time and stared straight at me. “The emotion he evokes in you is not strong.
There is only comfort, not passion, running through your thoughts when he holds you.” His attention turned back to the guitar in his hands.
“Will you hold me tonight?” I asked. His beautiful eyes lifted and gazed at me with so much emotion it took my breath away.
“There is nothing I’d rather do, but tonight my strength is weak. I can’t hold you right now. I want too much. Please, Pagan, tonight just sleep.” I watched him strum the chords on his guitar until my eyes grew heavy. Dank was right. Leif was my safe haven. My touchstone for normalcy. He was a friend. It was Dank who consumed me.