Chapter Eight: Reality and Fantasy
Anastasia gave a startled yelp, and scooted away from Louis, and fell on her side beside the bed. She groaned as pain shot up her arm.
"Damn it Ana, are you okay?"
For some reason, Louis was towering over her and looking down at her with dark concern.
"Yes, yes, I am okay. Just back off so I could get up without using my arm."
"Ana, you need my help?"
"Louis, what the hell are you doing in my bed?" She supported herself using the side of the bed and launched herself back up.
"I just wanted to make sure you don't have any nightmares, that's all." He said gently, sitting beside her.
She looked at him, then put her hand on his bare shoulder and slid it down his arm to his hand. He felt hot, but also reassuring. She entwined her fingers between his.
His eyes burned into hers, and he pulled her hand closer.
"You know there is nothing I wouldn't do for you." He whispered, holding her hand.
She turned her face away as if she could feel the heat from his eyes, and pulled her hand away.
"I am sorry, I shouldn't have - I mean, I should probably get a glass of water." She stammered, standing up.
He shifted uncomfortably. "If you want me to leave…"
He didn't seem to want to leave at all.
She shook her head, and spread her palms open.
"Do as you like, Louis. You know I will never turn you out."
She didn't wait for his response, but she felt him stiffen, and his eyes followed her as she left.
In the kitchen, she poured herself a glass of red wine, and leaned against the kitchen counter, waiting for her breathing to slow down.
She didn't know what it was between her and Louis, and she certainly didn't know what the dreams meant. But the last dream she had before she discovered Louis in her bed… it was a memory, something that had happened before… as far as she knows, it happened a very long time ago. So they are not mere dreams anymore. They were memories.
But she couldn't explain the white wings on his back, couldn't explain the things he said to her, and sure as hell couldn't explain what Alexander meant to her. Oh, she knew they were lovers, yes, that much she knew. But the Alexander NOW, didn't seem to mean to her as he did in her dreams.
Maybe it's better if she never saw him again. She couldn't face what isn't real. She couldn't… She couldn't bear falling in love with him.
She took a large gulp of the bittersweet wine and closed her eyes. She wanted to laugh at herself. Oh, everything would make so much more sense if she could only laugh it off. If only they were only stupid dreams… if only she hadn't met Alexander. If only, she could think about what Louis was to her.
Footsteps thumped across the hall, and Louis poked his head in the kitchen. He looked… apologetic and even guilty.
She turned towards him, her hand clenched around the handle of the glass. Neither of them said a word, then he took a step closer to her.
"I am sorry." She whispered. "I know I haven't been a very good friend lately, and a worse roommate. But things are a little out of my control these days. My mother, father, and even you. And then there are those crazy dreams…" Better to call them dreams instead of memories. She noted to herself. Or he would really kick you out and call the mental asylum. "They scare me so much… and I would do anything if things just get back to normal."
Louis' arms were around her... before she could say more. He buried his head on her neck, and tightened his arms. He pressed his lips against her collarbone and whispered against it.
"I know... I know, Ana. I am sorry too. I know you have so many things on your mind right now, and I ought to leave you alone. But for some reason, I can't. It's just that… you have become so important to me. And… I want you to be happy. With me, or without me. I just…" His lips left her cheek and he cupped her chin, while stroking her lips with a finger. "I want you to tell me anything."
His touch on her lips burned through her body, and something rose inside her. It was a burning... burning longing. His eyes gazed into her own, his finger sliding from her lips to her neck, passed her neck to her shoulders. Her shoulders beneath the thin white shirt she wore too trembled, and she leaned in closer. She could see the hesitation and the desire in his eyes. She pressed him against the counter and… Something fluttered outside her kitchen window. Maybe she saw wrong… she must have… because she saw… a flash of white wings. She was so startled that she backed away from Louis, who looked faintly annoyed. He followed her gaze.
"What's the matter?" He asked in a hushed voice.
"Nothing. I just…" She lowered her eyes. "Sorry, I think I am seeing things."
Louis heaved a sigh and smiled faintly.
"Well, the moment's gone. Serve you right." He tapped her nose like a loving brother.
She laughed, and took his hand. She kissed his palm. "Thank you."
"For what, honey?"
"For not giving up on me."
His eyes darkened, and he clutched her hand.
"Whatever happens, I will never, ever give up on you."
She woke with a start by someone touching her cheek. Dawn was coming down outside her window, and her room was lit with a slightly pinkish glow. She looked at her bedside clock, and it was five thirty in the morning. Her own mental clock was set for seven o'clock. But someone… or something, had woken her.
She sat up and found herself bathed in cold sweat. She wiped a hand across her forehead, finding it cold as ice. But her cheek… her cheeks were burning. It felt as if they are burning at the touch of someone familiar.
She swung her legs off the bed, and padded barefoot out of her room, not knowing what she wanted to do. Sleep had become a very touchy topic to her body, apparently. She couldn't go through a night without weird dreams or invisible things touching her. Maybe she was crazy... losing her mind.
But who could she talk to about it? Louis? No. He already cared about her too much. Worse, he was starting to get the wrong message. No, things between Louis and her needed their own solution. What about Dorothea? Possibly, but she is so innocent that she thought the worst thing about relationships is a love triangle, and other than that everything is fine. And the thing is, Anastasia was not in a love triangle. No, she was just fantasizing about a guy who was her best guy friend, and guy who appeared out of her freaking imagination.
No, it was not a love triangle. It was downright crazy, fantasy about a solid Louis, and a ghostly Alexander. So, she could talk to no one about it, could she?
She had gone into the living room without knowing it. Picking up a shawl she left on the sofa and wrapping it around her bare arms and shoulders. Since it was morning, the living room was chilly from the night. She walked over to the ceiling-to-floor window at the side of the living room and looked out at the brightening city. Lights twinkled under her, and she could see the roads getting busier with every car passing through. It was going to be a fine morning.
Best thing to do was to go jogging and think about what she was going to do about her freaky, honestly pathetic, problems.
Within ten minutes she was tying her shoelaces of her Converse sneakers, wearing a dark blue - I love New York t-shirt. She scribbled a note to Louis, grabbed her keys, and was out of the door before she could change her mind.
She took a deep breath for the crispy, fresh morning air and felt her chest expand with relief. This was a good idea. She hadn't jogged for weeks, stopping when the dreams of… (Alexander) well, when the dreams became frequent. Now... she could put them in the back of her mind with her earphones stuffed in her ears, with I will not bow blasting on the sides of her head.
She began to do slow jogging along the pavement, every step of her Converse calming her. She began to feel oh so happy, and laughed at herself on why she hadn't thought of this sooner. Yes, the shrinks were right, exercise was really the best thing in-
And then someone banged past her. His arms came around her when she toppled. The arms in her dreams. She blinked, and Alexander's green eyes were looking into hers.