Authors: Katie M John
Tags: #romance, #vampires, #urban fantasy, #adventure, #paranormal romance, #young adult, #college, #mythology, #forbidden love, #fairytale, #knights, #immortals, #mermaids, #arthurian legend
In the end, exhaustion dragged
me under but it wasn’t the sleep of the peaceful, it was the sleep
of the fevered, the sleep of the diseased; image after image
speeding through the mind like a film reel out of control.
From under the water, Sunlight
dances on the surface of the lake throwing out handfuls of
diamonds. She’s mesmerising, hypnotic, but the light flares in a
blinding flash, as if it’s hit polished metal and the whiteness
hurts my eyes. It hurts so much that I have to look away into the
direction of the Other Place.
The Other Place is a barren
land, an unending landscape in which the only things that move are
the strings of wind-ravaged black flags and a huddled figure,
squatted low, dressed in a ragged cloak which he pulls to him in a
desperate search for warmth. The Other Place is a dead place, a
place of utter despair. It is a wasteland in which the devil of
treachery stalks the betrayed amongst the monumental tombs of all
those who’ve had their hearts torn out by the ones they loved the
The sorrow that comes out from
the wretched figure is too much to bear. I wake up choking on the
knowledge that the figure trapped in the wasteland is Sam.
Sam survived the first night
and he continued to fight his internal battle with Death night
after night. I spent the next several days sitting by his bedside
watching and waiting, willing him back. In the hospital, time took
on an eerie almost supernatural quality and I found the only way to
measure the passing of it was by the movements of others; doctors,
nurses, canteen staff, tea lady, cleaner. Day after day, I sat
there in the beeping-silence, waiting.
On the third Monday, I
automatically found myself dressing for college and before I’d
become fully conscious of it, I was standing outside the school
gates. For fifteen minutes I stood there, hands holding onto the
bars as if they were the only thing holding me up, bracing myself
for the overwhelming concern and sympathy that was bound to be
dumped on me – or alternatively, the judgements as to why I wasn’t
sat by Sam’s bedside in his hour of need.
When I threw this question at
myself, I couldn’t answer or the only answer that I could come up
with made me sound like such a bitch that I couldn’t or didn’t want
to believe it could be the truth. After all, how does citing
boredom as a reason sound when your loved one lies in a hospital
bed fighting for his life? Only the thing was, Sam didn’t look like
he was fighting, he looked like he was taking a nap on the job and
watching somebody sleep for more than an hour at a time is about as
fascinating as watching paint dry - even when you do love them.
I weighed up the option of
giving college a miss, but the thought of going home to a whole day
of my mum’s grief stricken company didn’t seem any more attractive.
When I’d left her that morning she’d been sitting by the window,
lost in her own worry. She hadn’t even surfaced to say goodbye.
As it happened, the morning was
almost bearable. People mainly kept their distance from me and
avoided eye contact, as if they were too embarrassed by not knowing
what to say. Before I knew it, I’d sat through two of my morning
lessons with almost no recollection of having been there.
Eventually I came out of the depths of my own world and discovered
that I was sitting in the English room alone apart from Blake who
sat silently at my side.
The class had been dismissed
early for break. With embarrassment, I suspected that this might
have been the result of my painfully sorrowful presence. The room
was pleasantly warmed by the weak winter sun on the glass and I
felt no hurry to get up and leave. I felt no awkwardness at Blake’s
presence and for the first time in days I felt a small moment of
peace. Time passed. Blake’s eyes were closed, basking in the warmth
of the sun. His hands were locked together and they rested on a
leather bound copy of
works. I noted it wasn’t
the one that he’d brought in the bookshop but an antiquarian copy.
I wondered if he were really asleep or just waiting.
I traced the outline of his
face, his neck and his body with my eyes. Around his neck he wore a
black leather strap on which trembled a small, metal cross. It
seemed a daring display of faith in such cynical times. A shiver
washed over my body and it seemed that this invisible movement
alerted him to me watching him. He opened his eyes, concern flitted
over his face which made me register I was crying. I blushed,
expecting Blake to either look away embarrassed or move over to
comfort me like most people would do but he didn’t do either. He
locked eyes with me and held them there before whispering, “I’m
really sorry Mina. If there’s anything I can do, please just
Part of me hated him and it was
a hate that desired to move to violence. I wondered if he could
read it in my eyes, if he could sense how I wanted to hit him and
kick him and beat him but most of all I wondered if he could read
the longing and how at that precise moment there was nothing more I
wanted him to do than to lean over, take my face in his hands and
Picking up my books, I stuffed
them deep into my bag and left, slamming the classroom door behind
me. The stairs behaved like the crazy stairs of a fairground
funhouse and I had to dance on the edge of balance. Pain seared my
hand as I dragged my knuckle along the brickwork. When the wall ran
out, the pain flared causing yellow starbursts to dance in front of
my eyes and I had to stuff the whole of clenched fist into my mouth
to try and stifle the scream. The taste of copper filled my mouth
making me gag. The world spun dizzyingly around me and just as I
thought I was going to make impact with the floor, I felt myself
scooped up into a tight hug, warm arms holding me together. I was
rescued. Someone was here.
“Shh, Mina. Shh. It’ll be okay.
It’ll be okay.” Daisy pressed her cheek against mine and I knew
that she was crying too.
8. LOVERS & LIES
Josef’s flying visit turned
into a month long stay. It was clearly difficult for him to be away
from the London office, and he spent most of his mornings on his
mobile shouting at his graduates and cursing the broadband
connection for being so slow. But despite the fact that his usually
highly organised and minimalist life was in complete chaos, Josef
seemed to be relishing the security and warmth of a home.
The time came however, when
Josef had to leave for his own life and eventually he was forced to
instigate the conversation for which he’d originally made the visit
over a month ago.
“Mina,” he shuffled his papers
in front of him, obviously unsure of how to proceed and how I’d
respond. I put down my book. “Mina, darling girl, I came here
originally for quite a specific purpose. There was something I
needed to talk to you and Martha about; something that I wish could
wait longer until you are both in a better place but this can’t
wait and goodness knows I have tried to find a way to make this go
away but I can’t.” Josef coughed, stalling for time. “You know that
I’ve been spending a lot of time in France on the Glass-House
project, well I’ve met somebody over there. His name’s Gerard and
it is serious; serious enough that I’m moving over there to live
with him. We’re in the middle of buying a flat in Versailles. I
know this is really bad timing and I feel really bad but....”Josef
babbled on, embarrassed and guilty.
“Josef, stop! Really it's o.k.
We’ll be o.k.” I forced a smile at him, hoping that I was being
convincing enough because I was glad that he’d found somebody,
somebody he could love and build a life with.
“I haven’t told Martha yet,
can’t seem to find the right moment.”
“You don’t have to now,” Mum
spoke out from behind the kitchen door. Neither of us had noticed
her come in.
She walked round the back of
Josef’s chair and put her arms round his shoulders.
“I’m a big girl now Josef,” she
said, patting his shoulder. “I’m really pleased that you’ve met
someone. You need someone Josef; someone to call your own.” She
disentangled herself from him and went back towards the kitchen.
“Now who’s for tea? It sounds as if we have a lot to catch up
I smiled over at Josef as he
raised an eyebrow. He knew that he was now going to be subjected to
the equivalent of a medieval inquisition.
“Not for me Mum, I’m heading
out for the afternoon. I’m catching up with Daisy for a
I winked at Josef as he placed
his hands together begging me to stay, mouthing a dramatic, “No,
please. Don’t leave me!”
“What are you two laughing
about in there?” she called out from the kitchen.
“Nothing Mum! Take it easy on
him whilst I’m out won’t you? I won’t be back for tea. I’m going
straight on to the hospital to check in on Sam.”
It was the first day of March
and it was a beautiful crisp afternoon. The daffodils weren’t far
off flowering and the promise of spring seemed to be everywhere. It
was difficult to think that when Sam had last been aware of the
world, it had been a cold and icy place. The air had changed and
for the first time in over a very long month I felt a sense of
Daisy was already half-way down
her latte when I arrived. She looked tired and gloomy and I felt an
instant pang of selfish regret that I’d not called off. This was
the last thing I needed.
“Hi!” Daisy’s voice was flat
“Hey there! Do you want a top
up?” I asked her as I took off my jacket and walked past her to the
“No, I’m good thanks.”
I ordered a coffee for myself
and two slices of blueberry cheesecake in the faint hope it might
cheer her up.
“Here you go, yummy cheesecake
heaven!” I smiled, keeping my tone light and cheerful. “So what’s
up? What’s he done?” I asked sitting myself down.
Daisy looked uncomfortable,
possibly aware that anything she had to say would sound somewhat
insignificant compared to my situation.
“Come on Daisy, a problem
shared is a problem halved and all that jazz!” I invited her to
spill. It didn’t take any more encouragement.
“Dan and me, it’s so over. He’s
a cheating, sneaking bastard. I can’t believe I fell for such a
snake. Joe rang me yesterday and told me he needed to see me
urgently. When we met, he had an envelope in his hand and as soon
as I saw it I felt sick. I knew what it was going to be. He looked
so embarrassed that I thought that he was going to cry.” Daisy
herself looked as if she was about to lose it.
“Sorry, I don’t follow. What
was it he had in the envelope?” I asked, desperately trying to see
some kind of connection between the two.
“You know last weekend I went
down to Falmouth to see Dan. We went to this really cool
house-party on the Friday night and I met loads of his friends. We
were getting on so well and he told me that he was serious about
me. Saturday, we went for lunch and had a really long talk about
how things were going. He talked about wanting to take the next
step. You know –
“Oh, I see.”
“He gave me a box with a big
bow on it just like I was a princess. Don’t look like that Mina. I
know – alright- I know. In it was a set of gorgeous underwear and I
was so excited. It was all so romantic but I should have realised
it was all just too perfect - I feel so stupid Mina. I feel so
utterly stupid and I hate him but I hate myself more.” I recovered
the pack of tissues that had taken permanent residence in my
pocket. “I desperately wanted to tell someone but I couldn’t talk
to Joe and you, well you know…” She smiled apologetically at
I don’t know why this simple
smile of sympathy made me feel so rubbish.
“Daisy, you’re my best friend
and I love you. You should’ve come to me, we’ve always shared
everything.” My voice caught on my own hypocrisy.
It had always been true. Daisy
and I had shared everything since as long as I could remember so
why now couldn’t I tell her about Blake. What was stopping me from
telling her about the events on the day of Sam’s accident? What was
stopping me share with my dearest, closest friend how I really
felt? Why couldn’t I tell her how confused I was? How I was
terrified that I was going insane and on a one way road to
Sensing she’d hurt me, she
breathed in preparing to go on, “
, you know, having
s…sleeping with Dan was o.k. I wouldn’t say it was like I expected
to be, it didn’t feel as nice as I thought it would.” She let out a
nervous giggle, “Lets put it this way, it wasn’t like in the films
but I suppose only an idiot would think that it would be.”
She went on to tell me how he’d
persuaded her to have some photographs taken for an ‘art project’.
He was exactly the lowlife dick that Sam and I had thought he was
and I was surprised that Daisy, who was normally so grounded had
fallen for it. By the end of the weekend he’d managed to get her to
pose naked and before her train had even pulled in home, he’d
posted them onto the internet. Joe’s friend had recognised her and
Joe had been left with the task of breaking the bad news. I knew
this would have really hurt him in light of the fact that he adored
“Joe says he’s going to sort it
out for me. There’s a way of reporting them and having them
removed. He’s also offered to go down there and confront him ‘man
to man’, if you can imagine that.” She smiled.
The thought of Joe confronting
anybody ‘man to man’ was a slightly comical image and I couldn’t
help but smile too.
“He’s being really lovely, a
real knight in shining armour.”
“Daisy, have you ever thought
that maybe sometimes, Mr Perfect is the man standing right in front
“What! Me and Joe?” Daisy
laughed loudly and it seemed to pull her out of the gloom she’d
started in. “You’re a funny girl, Mina. We’re not all like you and
Sam; we’re not all destined to marry the boy next door.” She looked
embarrassed, aware that she’d just been really insensitive.