Chapter Two: A Ride to Remember
Chapter 2: A Ride to Remember Disclaimer: All characters belong to their respective creators, or in other word’s not me. The only figments of my imagination are Sin, and all of Elizabeth’s friends.
“Seriously, Elizabeth. You need to get a boyfriend.” I purposefully ignored my annoyingly persistent best friend, who was at this moment in time skipping backwards in front of me. I was watching her feet. It was an agreement we had; if one of us was doing something stupid, the other had to spot for her. “You study too hard. You need a life!”
“But, don’t you remember?” She tripped, and my hand shot out to steady her. She nodded to me in thanks. “When you’re in the IB, you have to choose between sleep, good grades and a life. You can’t have all three. I choose sleep and good grades.”
We came to a bench—they were scattered all through the extensive grounds of the school—and I sighed, swinging my bag and laptop off my shoulder, dumping it next to the pretty wrought iron seat. Then I flopped down onto the cold of the bench. “Not that I get enough sleep, either way. You know how it is, Steph.”
She stared down at me, a sympathetic gleam in her eyes. Then she sat as well, sliding an arm around my shoulders. “The Nightmares’re back, aren’t they?”
It wasn’t really a question.
I nodded anyway, and rubbed my face. I felt grey. “They started a few nights ago.” I hadn’t told her of my neighbors’ friendly guest. I wasn’t planning to, just yet. I needed to work that out for myself first.
“Are they still about—”
“The Demon Woman? Yes.”
She sighed, then shook her head like a wet dog. A lot of what she did ended up somewhat dog-like. Then she was smiling again. “Anyway! All the more reason for you to get a boyfriend. If you’ve got enough time for extra classes during break, then you’ve got enough time for a boyfriend. And it would be better for your health, especially if you’re not sleeping.”
I laughed. It was just like her to turn something like this to her own advantage. “Ah, Steph… You’re just too much sometimes.”
But she wasn’t listening. Actually, she was staring off into the distance, slack-jawed. I looked around, trying to find what had caught her attention. My eyes widened.
It was Gabriel!
The man was wandering, relaxed, down the path towards us, and my breathe caught at the way his grey sweater clung to him—did he wear nothing but grey?— and his black trench coat swayed behind. Even here, in school, he exuded power. Then it hit me; what was he doing in my school?
I watched as his clever eyes scanned the area around him, searching the shadows of the woods just as easily as the brightness of the open ground. My own eyes widened. He was looking for someone! Was he… Me? But… No…. That’s just… No. But the boys don’t go here. No. It must be a coincidence.
It had to be.
If I was completely honest with myself, I didn’t want it to be.
I shook my head, composing myself, before turning back to regard my friend. Stephanie was staring, wide-eyed, at Gabriel, who was blissfully unaware of the effect he was having. I pressed my lips together, fighting a smile.
“Steph, you’re drooling.”
Her eyes snapped back to me, and she spluttered. “But, but he’s cute! How can you not think he’s cute?” She roughly turned me to face Gabriel again, pointing past my shoulder at him. “That man is hot! What do think he’s looking for? I’ve never seen him here before.”
I laughed in delight, but quickly quieted when I saw him looking over at us. He must have heard Stephanie’s squealing. I blushed and waved slightly when he smiled warmly, starting towards us. “Stephanie… shut up.”
“Elizabeth! He’s looking for you?” Stephanie turned shocked eyes on me. “Who is he? How do you know him?” The she squealed again. “You lucky girl!”
I groaned. “Stephanie…”
“C’mon! Tell all!”
I couldn’t help laughing again as I extracted myself from her clinging form. “Calm down, Steph! I’ll tell you.” She quickly settled, staring at me expectantly. Then she started bouncing again. “Steph!”
“Alright, sorry! Just get on with it!”
“He’s just staying with my next door neighbors, is all. I met him while I was babysitting their kids.”
“Aw… that’s too boring.” Stephanie perked up again, though. “Oh well! It’s still workable.”
I never had a chance to answer.
“Elizabeth.” Gabriel tipped his hat at me, then turned to my friend. “And who is this?”
I fought to keep myself from melting at the way he said my name. Instead, primly, “Hats off, Gabriel, when on school grounds.”
Gabriel chuckled lowly, slipping his hat off, and Stephanie elbowed me in the ribs. “I’m Stephanie. Very pleased to meet you.”
“I’m sure.” I muttered, snickering. Stephanie elbowed me again. “Hey! Ow. Stephanie…” I whined, rubbing my side as I glared at her balefully.
Gabriel coughed, hiding a smile.
I shot a glare at him next. “I saw that, Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Lurking. What’re you doing in my school? I know the boys don’t come here.”
Stephanie heaved a despairing sigh, and shook her head. Gabriel just held up his hands in surrender, smirking. “I heard from Anna that you’re set to walk home today. I thought I’d pick you up instead.”
My eyes widened in surprise; no one had ever done something like that for me before. “Oh. Um…” Uncertain, I turned to Stephanie; she just urged me on, smiling broadly. “Th…thank you.”
His smirk softened into a kind smile. “It’s my pleasure.”
My eyes widened even further, if that was possible, when he offered me his arm. Blushing demurely, and determinately not looking in Stephanie’s direction—I knew just what she would be doing—I let him loop my arm through his. I continued not looking at her as Gabriel lead me away, but that didn’t stop my wince when she called out after us.
“Have fun, kiddies! Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”
I was going to kill her. Scratch that, judging by Gabriel’s raised eyebrow and small smirk I was going to have to do far more than that. Torture and maim, maybe. Yes, make her suffer for my suffering. Of course I couldn’t actually do that, so I had to settle for nervous laughter and a tight smile.
“Just an inside joke, Mr. Van Helsing. That’s just Stephanie, in a nutshell.” Then, louder, just because I couldn’t resist,
“Of course that’s not saying very much is it, hmmm? What do you say to that, Steph?”
She just laughed.
She continued to laugh until we had left hearing distance. And maybe even after that as well. I wouldn’t put it past her. Actually, she had started sounding somewhat hysterical, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she had continued to laugh for quite some time afterwards. That was one things she was prone to doing, laughing hysterically; it was probably one of the reasons I liked her so much. There’s nothing better, or more refreshing, than laughing, just for the sake of laughing, until the early hours of the morning. Of course, that would always eventually end with Stephanie trying to scratch behind her ear with her foot—something she’d been trying to do for ages—and falling off the couch. But that’s an entirely different story.
“Is she alright?” Gabriel’s voice brought me back to the present.
“Hmm?” I look up at him, expecting some sort of elaboration, but all he did was cock his head back in Stephanie’s direction. It took me several seconds to realize just what he was talking about. “Stephanie. Right. She’s perfectly fine. In fact, I would be worried if she wasn’t laughing.”
“She’s the fun-loving type, then?”
“Oh, yes! I’d almost swear that she manages to get high off air. If she’s not bouncing, laughing, or doing something utterly and completely stupid, then I’d say she must be sick.”
I looked ahead again, feeling almost awkward. He was silent for a while, but I could feel him watching me. I found myself feeling like a specimen under a microscope. Perhaps like a puzzle he wanted to complete.
I wasn’t sure if I liked the feeling.
“I hope you’re alright with motorcycles.”
I looked up at him sharply, frowning. “What?”
He outright laughed this time. I couldn’t help but scowl despite the shiver of pleasure that worked its way down my spine. “Yes, motorcycles.” He stopped suddenly, and it was barely able to avoid bumping into him. Then, smirking, he gestured to a shinning, sleek, black trap of death. Otherwise known as a motorcycle. “Motorcycles.”
“Ah.” A weak, nervous laugh as my bags slid off my shoulders. “Motorcycles. Lovely.”
He tossed me a simple black helmet, putting one on himself after strapping my bags to the back of the bike. He turned to look at me expectantly, when I didn’t move. “Not scared, are you?”
“Scared? No, of course not. Why would I possibly be scared? It’s just a motorcycle. Just a metal instrument of death, destruction and the killing of kittens!”
My mini-tirade wound down into frantic muttering, as I clutched the helmet between white-knuckled hands. I think my eye may have twitched. He just stared at me. Then he burst out laughing. I couldn’t help but shiver again; his laugh really was bad for the health—like dark chocolate. Still laughing he grabbed the helmet from my numb fingers, shoved it down over my head, and swung me bodily onto the leather seat. He left his too-big hands on my too-small shoulders, as if to hold me there. I shuddered. And it wasn’t from fear.
“The killing of kittens?” His eyebrow was arched, the bastard. He was so teasing me! Well, I’m glad I could be of some amusement.
I crossed my arms, nose up in the air. “So I like kittens. Sue me.”
Obviously I didn’t strike a very imposing figure, because all I got for that little remark was an amused snort. I guess my splayed-kneed and awkward balance on the unfamiliar seat of the bike dashed any hope of me being taken seriously.
Oh, who was I kidding? I couldn’t even take myself seriously.
Or at least not right now. I’d probably be taking myself very seriously later. Tonight… There’s not much good humor in terror. My arms slowly uncrossed, as if of their own accord, and wound around my waist. I felt suddenly nauseas. What would She do to me tonight? Would She shown me that blonde woman’s death again? Her swan dive from the tower? Red hair bleeding black, then destruction? Or would it be something more personal, like the time She had me cornered, Her claws buried in my gut?
I must have paled, though, or he must have sensed my flagging mood, because only a moment later I could feel Gabriel’s hands briskly rubbing up and down my arms. He must have thought I was going into shock again. Either way, it served to pull me from my darkening thoughts.
“It’s alright, you know. I won’t let anything happen to you.” He smiled kindly, gently readjusting the helmet on my head.
“I know what I’m doing.”
He then proceeded to gently nudge my knees into a better position, and after smoothly mounting the bike in front of me, drew my arms around his hard waist. I didn’t like the way he had started treating me like glass, though I did appreciate it. He must have thought me so weak; something to be taken care of. I didn’t want to be a burden again. The words ‘Dawn Watch’ echoed in my mind. I shook my head; I didn’t want to remember these memories that weren’t mine. Not right now. Not with him right there. I’d embarrassed myself enough for one life-time, thank you very much. It was time for damage control. Put on a brave face, and all that; or as much of one as I can manage.
He’d started the motorcycle and peeled out of the space before I’d realized it.
“Gabriel!” I squeaked, tightening my arms around his waist, and hid my head against his back. I didn’t want to see the ground passing underneath us. He just laughed again. He really was laughing a lot, wasn’t he? But I couldn’t say I was complaining.
The next ten minutes passed in a blur. Literally and figuratively. I was too busy trying to ignore the feeling of the wind buffeting my body to really watch where we were going. That was why, when we reached the usual intersection, I almost forgot to tell him to go the other way.
“Gabriel! Gabriel! The other way! Go the other way! Right! Go right! Not left, right!”
“What?” He looked around at me, frowning. I hit him on the shoulder.
“Eyes on the road!” I muttered tightly. “And go right.”
I sighed in relief when he faced forward again, and swerved smoothly to the right. He was silent for a few moments, but I could almost feel his frown. “Why?”
“Yeah, that road you were going to go down? It may be the quickest way back, but every single time I’ve gone that way something bad, and/or weird has happened. Call me superstitious, but I prefer not to, now.”
“Alright. Fair enough.”
The rest of the ride passed far too quickly, I thought. I was starting to enjoy the sensation of the wind flowing through my hair, and I most defiantly enjoyed the feeling of his stomach muscles rippling under my palms. The speed was starting to get to me too. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry… he was turning me into an adrenaline junkie. And it only took one motorcycle ride!
But then we were home, and he was lifting me off the bike, handling me as if I were a porcelain doll. I decided that I kind of liked the feeling. Just a little bit. Not that I would ever admit it.
Suddenly shy, I looked away from him. “Thanks. I really appreciate this. You can’t know how much…”
I heard him sigh before I felt a hand settle on my shoulder and another lift my chin. “It’s alright. Really. I don’t mind at all. If there’s anything you need, anything at all, all you need to do is ask. I can help you, if you’ll let me.”
I wanted to hug him. Honestly, I’d missed this feeling… I’d missed the comfort. And he was being so comforting right then. I wanted to touch him, hold him, but all I did was smile. Then quietly, almost reverently, I said the only thing I could.
For moment, the silence was thick; I could feel the two barely uttered words sink into the air around us. Desperate to break the silence and put that little scene behind us I spoke up again, only louder this time. “Anyway. I should probably go now… Do you think you could take my bags inside with you when you go in? I usually leave them with Anna for a few hours; I’ll come back for them later.”
Gabriel frowned, but nodded. “Where are you going?”
“There’s a park, a few minutes walk away. I usually go there after school. So I’ll see you then?”
Then I turned, walked back through the gate onto the road, and I could feel his eyes on my back. I had the feeling that I had just revealed another piece of a puzzle. I couldn’t decide if that was a good or bad thing, but I knew that eventually
I’d find out.
I only hoped it wouldn’t be too late.