“Maybe, but…so many things change during these years. Do you ever go through something and wonder if you’re a completely different person than you were before? Like…I barely remember my early childhood; am I the same person I was back then? Am I going to be the same person as the one I’m going to grow into? What makes me ‘me’?”

“I suppose memory is a part of it, but also aspirations and dreams and your passions. I know what you mean about going through something big. I felt like I changed so much in the orphanage and then…” I wanted to talk about my transition into being a Slayer, but I had to cloak my meaning in vague terms. “Things happen and you grow up. You start to see the world in a different way and you have to change your beliefs. Sometimes I don’t know if we’re ever truly ‘one’ person. People see different aspects of us. We hide different sides of us from different people. I wonder if it’s ever possible for one person to know everything.”

“Maybe it’s for the best that they don’t. Some things are best kept secret. A little mystery is always good. It keeps things interesting,” he said. I certainly agreed. It pained me that I had to keep my whole life as a Slayer under wraps from him. I wanted so badly to tell him, to ask him for advice and guidance, and to share this part of me but I couldn’t. It had to remain secret, and there was a part of me that thought he might be holding something back from me as well. My confidence had been knocked a little, after Adam had told me he basically didn’t want anything to do with me, although knowing the truth behind his behavior helped alleviate some of the suffering. Josh seemed so confident and easygoing that I assumed he’d ask me out if he really wanted, and I figured he might just be being friendly to me. I wasn’t ready to assume anything, especially not in the area of romance where I lacked experience.

Whenever I was around him, I couldn’t help but think about the dream I’d had where his, Adam’s, and Troy’s faces had replaced the vampires around me. Heat instantly flared inside me and I began to squirm, feeling a twitch between my legs. I wanted him so badly to ask me out, or to kiss me, or to do anything. I’d never been this desperate for anything before, but all we did was talk. I left, feeling disheartened, wondering if I was ever going to be blessed in romance or if I would always be forlorn and lonely.

Chapter Twelve

The following week went by without incident. Julia was absent from classes as she was grieving and I didn’t encounter Angelica, which was a blessing. It actually made the week pass by rather quickly. I had almost forgotten what it was like to live without stress. I was able to concentrate on classes and actually had some praise from Mr. Shackleton. I spent more time with the boys, although we only talked and nothing happened on the romance front. My mind was still alive with the dream I’d had, although since that last dream I hadn’t had anymore and was left to nourish myself on the images and sensations that lingered in my body. It was darkly exciting though, to have these thoughts while in their company. Josh was right in a way, that some secrets were exciting to have, and when I returned home I was left breathless and flustered.

Hunting vampires did a lot to quell my frustrations, but Arthur and I had still made no progress in our efforts to tempt the master vampires out from their lairs. Every idea I had was flawed, and Arthur wouldn’t approve anything that wasn’t perfect. I was tempted to go ahead without him, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, not after everything he had told me about the strict council and how dangerous it was. Even though I was confident in my abilities as a Slayer the simple fact was that I was still inexperienced. I had only ever gone after feral vampires, not the more powerful ones, and I didn’t want to be caught out of my depth.

There had been no progress in anything else either. I waited every night to experience another dream, but my ancestors didn’t come to me and I wondered if Arthur was right and the images I’d seen had just been random assortments of echoes without any rhyme or reason to them. I wanted to believe so badly that they had significance, but if they did then why were they silent now? I didn’t ask him about the book. I decided that I had been paranoid and things at the academy were getting the better of me. Arthur hadn’t ever done anything to put me in danger. Everything he’d done had been to look out for me and it was ungrateful of me to think otherwise. He was evidently under stress from the council and I didn’t want to give him anything else to worry about. We just had to be patient. I was still young and I, hopefully, had a lot of life left in me. Everything would come in time, I just had to wait for it. I had to be patient like the vampires were. It was probably the only quality about them that was worth admiring.

Julia’s tragedy had got me thinking about my own parents and how I had neglected thinking about them for a while. It was too easy to let them slip into the ether. I had a link to my aunt, but there was none to my Mom and Dad. I wished that I could have done something to bridge the gap between this world and the afterlife, and I started to become melancholy. I tried to hide my mood from the people around me, but they picked up on it. Josh was caring and asked me what was wrong, Troy tried to cheer me up, while Adam was just his usual quiet self. I told them that I missed my parents and they sympathized with me, but there wasn’t much they could do to help my mood. Arthur tried his best, as well, but he wasn’t attuned to that kind of thing. Funnily enough, the one person who could have helped most was Julia, but I certainly wasn’t going to ask her to help me out.

While I was out on patrol I was struck by how many people were falling in love and enjoying human coupling. I suppose it was one of those things where it was on my mind, so I was seeing it more often than I usually would, but everywhere I looked it seemed as though people were pairing away and while I was jealous there was also a part of it that I didn’t understand. I didn’t know how anyone could limit themselves to just one person when there was so much variety to be had. Josh, Adam, and Troy each had unique qualities that made them special and there was no way I could have just chosen one, if I was forced too.

Not that it mattered anyway, although there was one day when they were sweet and invited me for a midnight picnic in the gardens to cheer me up. I was a little annoyed that it was so late, but they said they wanted to do it at midnight because Josh’s allergies were less sensitive, and Adam always preferred to be in the garden at night when it was calmer and he could be sure of having the place to himself. I readily agreed because I wanted to spend time with them and it sounded pretty magical to be in the garden at midnight, but it was frustrating that it was at the academy. So much of my life revolved around the place. Part of me wanted to escape.

*

When the night came I was filled with nerves as I approached the academy. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. It was so magical that it almost seemed like a date, but I wasn’t sure if that was what they intended. I was taking a night off from patrolling and I hoped that no feral vampires would kill anyone. I wore a loose dress as the night was warm and I never felt the cold anyway. The stars were bright, as before, and as I skulked around the garden I heard their muffled voices. They were in a secluded part of the garden, far from the building, and I hoped that it would keep us hidden from any prying eyes so we could enjoy a good few hours together without interruption.

They all looked good and relaxed, as though they were in their natural element. They welcomed me with open arms, although Adam was a little distance away, focused on his flowers. They had laid out a picnic blanket for us to use and had smuggled some sandwiches, chips, and drinks out of the academy. Troy gestured for me to take a seat and so I smoothed my dress out and folded my legs beneath me, settling on the blanket. The air was cool and I felt comfortable under the stars.

“I hope this is alright. We know you’ve been feeling down. Hopefully your troubles will start to get further away,” Josh said.

“It was a shame you had to miss the game. I made the shot of my life,” Troy said, boun

cing on his heels as he reenacted the shot.

“I appreciate all of this. It’s really sweet. You know, all my life I’ve never really had the chance to form friendships that last too long. It was such a revolving door and when I came to this place I was afraid that it would be the same. But I’m glad that I met you guys. You’ve made this place way better than it would have been otherwise. I’ve never been good at making friends, so if I hadn’t met you I’m not sure I would have made any friends, and I’d have to deal with Julia all by myself.”

“You’re welcome, and we’re glad that you’ve come along,” Josh said.

He shared out the food. Troy came down, and Adam came near as well, although he took some food away and continued tending to his flowers, caressing them as though they were a lover. I looked at him a little differently, now that I knew the truth of what had happened. I felt pity that his heart was so big, his only crime was that he had loved someone too fiercely and hadn’t known when to stop. I dared not say anything though as I didn’t want to embarrass him.

We ate the food. Troy told me about the game and we joked around. Once we’d finished eating we rested on the ground, staring up at the stars. It was endless in its beauty and as I gazed up at the sky it felt as though I was being pulled into infinity.

“It’s so beautiful isn’t it?” I whispered.

I looked over and saw that Adam tilted his head back, following our gazes. Troy and Josh were either side of me. The moon was full and sensual, and as we spoke quietly it felt as though we were the only people in the world. Troy and Josh agreed with me, and we were comfortable in our silence together. I listened to the rhythm of their breathing, and when I glanced over I saw their chests rise and fall. We were so close and it was so silent that I could almost hear their hearts beating.

After some time, Josh broke the silence.

“Elsa, there’s something we wanted to tell you, something about ourselves that might make you feel a little better as in it might make you realize that you’re not the only one who has been through a painful experience.”

“What’s that?” I asked, furrowing my brow.

“I know we told you that we’re all friends because we arrived here at the same time, but that’s not the entire truth. There’s something else we had in common,” Troy said, taking up the baton of conversation. He breathed in deeply and I wondered what they were going to say. In the momentary silence, I wondered what it was going to be, but I couldn’t think. I glanced over at Adam to see if I could glean any hint from him, but he was just staring into space, seemingly unconcerned about our conversation.

“It’s not a big deal and it’s nothing to be concerned about, but we’re all cancer survivors. We met when we were inducted into an experimental trial and because we had to be monitored it was decided that a traditional education model wasn’t suitable for us, so Angel Academy opened up their places. Our chances of survival weren’t great, but we all thought we should give it a shot and, thankfully, it worked for all three of us. We’ve all had our brush with death, as well. I know it’s not the same as you losing your parents, but we’ve all thought about our own mortality.”

As soon as he said this, so many things clicked into place. It all seemed to make sense; Josh’s earlier mention of something that changed him into a new man, Adam’s obsession with death and life…it was all so clear to me and I felt closer to them. I thanked them for telling me and I wondered why they hadn’t told me sooner, but they said it was something they didn’t like to dwell upon.

“What was the experimental treatment?” I asked. They glanced at each other.


Tags: Lilly Wilder Paranormal
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