The smell of good food wafted through the house as Ylva worked away in the kitchen. It was Saturday, so she was home from work, and she wanted to make a nice breakfast to help cheer everyone up after everything that had happened the previous day.
She carried the pans of food to the table and then walked down the short hallway to my room and knocked on the door.
“Kalinda, breakfast is ready,” she called. She waited a moment, listening, but there was no answer and no sound of movement from inside the room. “Kalinda, please come out and eat with us,” she begged. Still there was no answer. She gripped the door handle and tried to turn it, but it was locked.
“She’s not there,” Shiva said, coming up behind Ylva.
“What?” she asked, turning to look up at him. “Then where is she?”
“On the roof,” he replied.
“But if she’d left her room this morning I would have seen her! Besides, her door is locked from the inside. She must be in there,” Ylva reasoned, but Shiva shook his head. Taking Ylva’s hand he held it over the crack around the bedroom door.
“Feel the draft?” he asked. “She’s gone out the window and climbed up the fire escape.”
“Then go after her!” Ylva exclaimed, but Shiva shook his head.
“I want to protect her as much as you do, but she’s a grown woman now, we need to let her make her own decisions,” he pointed out.
Ylva sighed. “I suppose you’re right. I just don’t want her to get hurt.”
“Me neither,” Shiva agreed. “But she knows the risks, and she’s willing to face them to help Axiss. We need to let her go.”
Ylva nodded resignedly and leaned against Shiva, who wrapped his arms around her for comfort. After a moment she pulled away and smiled tiredly. “Come on, let’s go eat breakfast before it gets cold.”
I had woken up early that morning, planning to get up and help Ylva with breakfast, but while I was brushing my hair something on the fire escape caught my eye. I walked over to the window and looked out to see that Axiss had forgotten his coat outside my window. I hesitated, then slid the window open and climbed out. Bending down I picked up the heavy leather coat and shook the snow off of it, then began climbing the metal stairs towards the roof.
“Axiss?” I called as I climbed over the railing and dropped lightly down into the snow. There wasn’t any answer. I crossed the roof to the shed and knocked on the door. Nothing. Holding my breath I turned the knob and pulled the door open. Empty. A thousand emotions rushed through me, and one thought surfaced. He was gone. Calm down, I told myself. Maybe he’s just exercising. He can’t stay up here all the time.
I turned in a circle, looking around the little shed. It felt very empty without Axiss. The sleeping bag I’d given him on the first day was still spread across the floor, but it was cold to the touch. He hadn’t slept in it last night. I sighed and laid the coat down on the floor for him to find if he came back. As I bent down my eye was caught by a small object half buried under the sleeping bag. It was the baby monitor. So that’s what happened to it, I thought, picking it up and sticking it in my pocket. I must have left it up here. It wasn’t until later that I began to wonder how much of Axiss’ time had been spent listening in on me in the apartment below.
I stayed on the roof for at least an hour, pacing around and staring down at the street below, but Axiss didn’t show up. Finally my ears began to hurt from the cold wind and I decided to go back down to the warm apartment.
All day my mind was on the empty shed. I couldn’t stop wondering if he would come back. By mid-afternoon I couldn’t stand it anymore, I had to go check and see if he’d come back yet.
When I stepped onto the snowy roof the first thing I saw was Axiss, standing with his back to me. I opened my mouth to greet him, but then I stopped as my eyes fell on the red splatters of blood staining his white hair. Somehow I knew that it wasn’t animal blood. I closed my eyes for a moment, composing myself. Pretend you don’t see it, I told myself.
“You’re back,” I said softly.
“Yes, I am,” he replied stiffly.
“I was afraid you’d left.”
“I did, for a while. Now I’m here again.”
“Which you?” I asked before I could stop myself. He finally turned to face me, and I wasn’t really surprised by what I saw. His face and hands were covered in blood. I looked at him sadly for a few minutes before dropping my eyes to the snowy ground.
“Nothing happened,” he said sternly.
“How stupid do you think I am?” I asked, suddenly angry.
“I said nothing happened!” he shouted. I just shook my head and turned away from him, walking over to the railing and leaning against it. A thousand things were running through my mind, and I didn’t want to think about any of them.
I heard him stoop and pick up a handful of snow, using it to scrub the blood off his face. “Why did you have to come up here?” he muttered. I could tell he was talking to himself more than to me.
For several minutes I was silent. Finally one thought rose to the surface of my mind, and I spoke it aloud. “What makes me different?”
His feet crunched on the snow as he walked over and stood beside me. “Different from what?” he asked.
“From everyone else. I practically had to make you take my blood, but with others you don’t think twice,” I explained without looking at him.
“For one thing I can’t take your blood,” he said bluntly. “Your healing power prevents me.”
“So, if it wasn’t for that, would you take it?” I asked. Then added softly, “Would you kill me for it?”
He didn’t answer me. We stood silently for several minutes, staring out at the distant horizon.
Finally I turned and looked up at his face. “What is it you wanted?” I demanded. “Blood? Thrill? Money?”
He turned his back to me, refusing to answer. I watched him for a moment. I was disappointed, and I was angry, but I knew that I shouldn’t be surprised. I should have seen this coming.
I felt sick to my stomach, which was a strange feeling for me. Turning my back on him I began to walk towards the door, not wanting him to see how strongly this was affecting me. I hoped I would be able to handle this better once I’d had some time to calm down and think things through.
“Goodbye Kalinda,” he said as I walked away. “You probably won’t see me again.”
That stopped me. I spun to face him. “You’re leaving?” I exclaimed, eyes wide.
“I don’t see why I shouldn’t,” he replied, still keeping his back to me.
“Will you come back?” I asked. I had nearly forgotten everything else in my fear of losing him.
“I just said you probably won’t see me again,” he reminded me.
I stared at him for a moment, feeling paralyzed. My heart was beating so loud I was sure he could hear it. I tried to move, but I was frozen in place. I willed myself to say something, anything, but I couldn’t. I hadn’t imagined just how hard news like this would hit me. I hadn’t realized just how much I really cared for this man.
I struggled, trying to speak, to beg him to stay. Finally I managed to force one word from my lips. “Please.”
He coughed and turned to face me. “Please? I’ve heard that word so many times it makes me sick,” he spat. “That has been the last word of so many people. You could fill a book with that word.”
His words barely registered in my brain. I shook my head a bit, trying to clear my foggy thoughts. “Don’t go,” I begged.
“I have to. You,” he paused and pointed at me. “You are suffocating, and it’s my fault.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“You need to open your eyes and stop focusing on me.” He started to back toward the edge of the roof, preparing to jump off and fly away. I could feel him slipping away from me, and it was agonizing.
“No! Axiss, don’t leave me!” I exclaimed, reaching towards him. I wanted to run to him, but I couldn’t make my legs move.
He closed his eyes and shook his head. “I can’t stay.”
“Why? What did I do wrong?” I asked. My eyes were filling with tears, blurring my vision.
“Absolutely nothing. You’re perfect,” he answered.
“Then don’t leave me,” I whispered.
“I’m corrupting you. And misleading you,” he said. “Even if you somehow changed me, how would I live? Everyone knows who and what I am. I would have to hide away in a dark hole until I die. Is that what you want for me?”
My hands were shaking. I clenched them into fists and shook my head. “No… Oh, I don’t know! I just want you to stay!” I exclaimed.
“Look at you! Is this really so hard for you? You’re too attached to me; it’s clouding your judgment. Snap out of it, Kalinda!” he ordered.
“I love you,” I whispered, finally voicing what I hadn’t been able to admit before now. Axiss’ eyes widened and he stumbled as if he’d been struck.
“You what?” He leaned against the rail for support, staring at me. “What?!”
“I love you,” I repeated as the tears spilled from my eyes and ran down my cheeks.
“You- you can’t!” he exclaimed. “Why, why, why… why, how?”
I finally managed to move my legs. I took one shaky step towards him, my eyes pleading as I blinked back my tears. “Axiss, you said we were friends. If you ever meant a word you said to me than please, I’m begging you, don’t leave,” I said, my voice cracking as I spoke the words.
“I’m sorry,” he said. Without warning he appeared in front of me and gently tipped my chin up so I was looking into his crimson eyes. His expression softened as he gently brushed his fingers over my cheeks, wiping away the tears. Slipping his arm around me he pulled me close and slowly pressed his lips against mine. The kiss was soft and tender, and he held it for a few seconds before pulling away. I felt his warm breath tickling my cat ear as he whispered something to me in French, and then he was gone.
I stood frozen for several heartbeats before realizing what had just happened. “Axiss?” I whispered to the air where he had been, but of course there was no reply, just the empty whispering of the wind.
“Axiss!” I screamed. My legs gave out from under me and I collapsed in the snow, sobbing uncontrollably. I had been shot. I had been kidnapped. I had been forced to marry a stranger. But I’d never felt this much pain before.
I curled into a ball, hugging my knees and shaking violently. I had never cried so hard before in my life. My world was a blur of tears. I couldn’t see, and I couldn’t think.
I don’t know how long I lay there, but eventually I ran out of tears. My eyes stung and my lungs hurt. I was trembling from the cold, but I didn’t care about that. Slowly I got to my feet, wobbling on my stiff legs. I stumbled to the door and down the stairs, probably looking like a drunk. I entered the apartment and was greeted by the sound of Marie crying. Baby, I thought. What’s she got to cry about?
“Kalinda?” Ylva stood and walked over to me, concern in her eyes. “Kalinda, are you okay?”
It took several moments for my mind to register her voice. I turned slowly to face her, my eyes red from crying. I opened my mouth to answer her, but I couldn’t find the words.
“What happened to you?” she asked. “You look half frozen!”
“Axiss,” I said. My tongue felt heavy in my mouth.
“Axiss?” she exclaimed. “What did he do to you?”
I stared at her for a moment, uncomprehending. Then I realized what she must be thinking and I shook my head. “He’s gone. He’s gone and he’s not coming back.” My voice shook as I said it.
“He left? Did he harm you?” she asked, looking me over as if she expected to find a wound, which was silly since I was a healer.
I shook my head again. “I asked him, no, begged him to stay. But he left. He’s gone…” I raised a hand to my head. It was throbbing from all the crying I’d done. I probably could have healed it, but it was the least of my problems at that moment.
I saw understanding dawn on Ylva as she realized that my pain wasn’t physical. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s get you to bed.”
I nodded and turned towards my bedroom. I was thirsty. Dehydrated probably. But I didn’t care. I walked into my room and crawled gratefully into bed while Ylva pulled the covers up around me and brought me a glass of water.
“Ylva,” I whispered as she fussed with my blanket, “please, don’t blame him.”
She stopped and looked at me, confusion in her eyes. “But… he did this to you,” she said angrily. “How can I not blame him?”
“He left, Ylva. Yesterday you would have been glad. Now you’re angry with him? He did what you wanted.”
“But look at you! He may as well have tried to kill you,” she said.
“He left to protect me,” I said, still choosing to think the best of him, even now. “You should understand,” I pointed out. “You thought I was too close too him. I guess he thought the same.”
“I’ll admit I’m glad that he left, but… when he left he stole your heart.”
I shook my head. “He stole the kiss, but I gave him my heart.”
Ylva’s eyes saddened. “Kalinda, Kalinda, Kalinda…” she shook her head dolefully.
“This is my fault Ylva, so don’t blame him. I was digging my own grave and I knew it,” I told her.
“I’ll try my best for your sake,” she promised. “Now get some rest. You need it.”
I closed my eyes obediently. The extremes of emotions had left me feeling exhausted, and it wasn’t long before I slipped into a weary sleep.
< Chapter Forty-Three ~ Chapter Forty-Five >
Copyright 2014 Arthwaya Valora & Alvara101