The Guild – Chapter 20 – Caroline

Kaede and I returned to the dorms after lunch. I went to class early, leaving him alone in our room. Apparently, Kaitlyn replaced him after our bath to guard the library for Andrei’s return. I took Kaitlyn’s advice and tried talking to him about how things were, but he was too tired. So we went to bed. Same old, separate beds… same room… I didn’t sleep a wink. I stared at the ceiling all night, thinking.

I remember laying in bed when I heard someone in the hall outside. I decided it was pointless to sleep so I had been reading a book in the common space. I had peeked out the door and saw Andrei leaning on his. He looked really tired and man, the aura I felt coming off of him could wipe out a city. I decided to wait. When he finally cleared the hallway, I left for class. His door was shut and the light was off. At least he was sleeping. I wonder what happened. Maybe I’ll ask him after lunch if he’s awake.

So now, Kaede and I are back at the dorms, chatting casually about nothing really. I glance over my shoulder at Andrei’s door as we enter our room. “Kaede, Andrei’s back.”

“Oh? Did you see him?” He asks, jumping on the plush couch in our common space. He flicks on the lamp and grabs a pillow, hugging it to his chest.

“Yeah, I saw him this morning. Remember? I couldn’t sleep?”

“Yeah, I remember. I still don’t know how you went to class so early without sleep. You’re like a robot.”

“I am not a robot Kae. I just… had a lot on my mind is all.”

“Oh, sorry.” He says. “I meant nothing by it. You know that right?”

“Yeah, I know. Sorry. So you didn’t see him this morning?”

“No, I was here all morning, but saw no one.”

“Not even Kaitlyn?”

“Nope. I left her in the library last night and haven’t seen her since. I wonder where she’s gone off too. If Andrei’s back I thought they’d be-”

I stop him with a glare. No one needs to say it now. We all know. “I told you, he came back up alone. So I wonder where Kaitlyn went.”

“You know more than I do already. Sorry.” Kae shrugs. “So, what was it you wanted to talk about last night, you know when I was too tired to think.”

“Oh… It’s nothing really. It can wait.” I brush off, worry for Andrei growing in my stomach.

“No, Car, If you have something you want to talk about, I want to know. Really I do. I just, I couldn’t listen last night. I’m sorry if that kept you up. I’d been up almost 24 hours waiting for Andrei. But I’m all ears now, if you want, that is,”

I sit down beside him on the couch, he scooches his feet over to make room. “Well,” I begin, not sure where to start. “I’ve been thinking… about us, and -”

“Are you thinking of breaking up with me?” Kaede bursts, sitting up, a frightened hurt look on his face. I stare at him. I hope it’s just his sarcasm.

“No dummy! Listening!” I point at my ears, frustrated that he jumped to a conclusion without listening first. “I’m not done. I have been thinking about us, like where we are in our relationship. I really like you Kae. I like you a lot. I… I…”

“You like me like a brother…” He pouts.

“No Kae! I love you, damn it! Listen!” I shout at him. He has this thin smirky smile that reminds me an awful lot of Andrei and now I’m not sure I can go through with my thoughts.

“Please, continue, I’ll keep quiet.” He says, gripping the pillow like a kid with his favourite teddy.

“I wanted to know… If you would consider… depending on… how… serious you are about us…” I trail off, not sure where I’m trying to go with this. Even though I had all night to think about what to say, all his interruptions have thrown me off balance again.

“Yes?” He prods.

“Umm…”

“Caroline. I love you. Like, really like you, love you. And I want to keep dating you. And if you want to wait I will wait because I like you. I don’t want to make things awkward. But, if you want to try something else, then that’s ok too.” He interjects.  How is it so easy for him to put the words together? I guess that’s what I like about him though. He knows just what to say and when to say it… most of the time.

“Thanks, Kae. I love you too.” I give him a sideways glance and smile. He puts the pillow behind him and leans towards me, resting his head on my shoulder. His fluffy hair tickles my neck and I shiver.

“I don’t want you to feel like you have to change in order to keep me, Caroline. If you want to wait… I’ll keep waiting.” He says a little more solemnly.

When he says it like that I feel guilty. Is it wrong of me to want to wait? Maybe I didn’t think this all the way through. I mean, everyone is different, we all have different values. Just because Kaitlyn doesn’t think waiting for your soulmate is important, doesn’t mean that it has to be the same for me. I chew that for a bit. But, I told her to ask Andrei… Maybe I should ask Kaede, take my own advice for once. It feels like swallowing bitter medicine.

“Kaede. What do you think… about sex? Should you wait till you think it’s with the one and only? Or is it just for fun?” I feel my cheeks burn now that I’ve said it. I feel stupid for asking, like a little kid.

“What? What’s got you thinking this?” He asks, lifting his head from my shoulder. He looks surprised.

I shrug. “Umm… Just something I talked about with one of my girlfriends.” I say.

“Wait, you have girlfriends?”

I punch him in the shoulder. “Yes, I have friends that are girls Kae.”

He snickers, “I know, I’m kidding, Jeez. You should have joined the boxing team.” He jests.

I make a fist and he shies back. “Seriously though, what’s your opinion,” I ask, lowering my fist.

He pushes his lips to the side, thinking. I wonder if it’s even on his mind at all. “I think that if you really like the person, and you’re curious, then it doesn’t hurt to try. And if you don’t like it, then we can wait. I mean, I would like to, but it’s important that you want to as well.” He says. I turn to look at him, his brown Japanese-Canadian eyes looking at mine. They look amused and I feel like a little girl. I pout.

“I don’t know…” I say, looking at the ground. “I’m too shy to know…” I say, unsure of what I think now.

“But you were thinking about it, because you asked about it. So, that’s a start.” He says hopefully.

“Yeah, I guess.” I make the mistake of looking at him again. Our eyes lock and I’m not sure what I’m thinking, but I find myself leaning closer and he’s getting closer, and our noses are in the way, he turns left, I go right and our lips brush softly. I shut my eyes, remembering that it’s rude to kiss with them open. We get lost in the kiss until I hear a crash from across the hall. We pull apart and both look at the door, stiff.

“What was that?” Kaede asks.

“I think… it was Andrei.” We both stare at the door, unmoving.

“When he came back, what was he like?”

“Walking death, Kae. He was really awful.”

“Umm… I don’t think I’m qualified to talk to him.” He says assuredly.

“What, and I am? What gave you that idea?”

“Just, your good with words and I’m good at joking. I don’t think I can handle walking death, Andrei.”

“I remember now, you still don’t know what happened with Samantha do you?” I bring up.

He looks at me with a shrug. “He really liked her, I don’t get it. He only ever told me good things about her.”

“Well, take all those good things and throw them in a blender. I wouldn’t bring up Samantha in casual conversation with him.”

“See, you know exactly what to say. I’ve already done that and it didn’t go well. You should go… see what he broke… or wanted to break… or didn’t mean to break.”

I give him a rye smile and stand up. “If I don’t make it back, tell my family I love them,” I say, grabbing the door handle and twisting it. “I love you Kae.”

“I love you too, Car.” He holds out his hand like the Michelangelo painting and I mimic the other half. “Goodbye!”

I smile and slip through the door. I approach Andrei’s, noticing Kaitlyn’s door is wide open. No one appears to be inside. Strange. I pull it shut, hoping no one was snooping through her stuff. I tiptoe to Andrei’s, hand on the knob. I push it open and slip in. The room is dark, the East facing side doesn’t get the afternoon light and it seems the curtains have been drawn shut. I look for the switch.

The light comes on and I hear a groan come from behind the couch. “Andrei? Are you okay?” I call out looking for the source of the crash.

“Go away Car…”

That’s a first. I haven’t heard Andrei this depressed since… well… Samantha. “Andrei. I’m not going anywhere.” I walk around the table and peer over the couch. His legs are bent, pressed against the back of the couch, his head nearly touching the wall. “Did you fall over?”

“Shut up…” He groans, arm over his face, covering his eyes. His voice sounds rough and his clothes are wrinkled. That’s when I realize they’re the same clothes I saw him come in wearing this morning.

“Andrei. I… I know something’s up and I came here to talk. I’d rather not lay on the floor though.” He doesn’t budge. Not even a flinch. I sigh, rolling my eyes and hop over the couch. I lay back, bracing my legs on the back of the couch like him. “Fine. I’ll join you here.”

“I don’t wanna talk Car.” He grumbles.

“Andrei. You know you can tell me what happened. It’s eating you up. I can tell that much.”

“You wouldn’t understand… She didn’t.” He adds softly.

She? Kaitlyn? So he did see her in the library. Maybe he knows where she went. But I’ve got bigger fish here. “What won’t I understand? Hmm? I think I might. Why don’t you try me.” I try to be light hearted so he breaks the mood. He seems persistent though to gloom under his arm. Why is he covering his eyes? You can’t even see the light from here.

“Andrei… Come on. I’m here to listen. Did you have a fight?”

“Sort of.”

“With Kaitlyn?”

“Mmm.”

“About?”

“Logan.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“Really?” I say doubtfully.

“Did I make a mistake?”

“A mistake about what?” I ask. The fire of questions and answers slows down.

He sniffs and I turn so I can see the side of his face. I see lines running from under his arm and down to his ear. He’s been crying? Oh man. That’s why he’s covering his eyes.

“Ok, what happened first?” I prod gently.

“I jumped to Japan.”

I swallow hard. Wow, really? He can jump to different countries just like that? I mean… I still can’t get a grip on the idea that all his cooky stories have been real. I still doubt… even now. How lame of me. “That’s cool. Anything else?”

“I met the two hundredth century queen and her sister.”

Wow… that’s actually pretty cool. “And…”

“The sister…” He chokes, swallowing hard, “She… tried to bed me. Twice.” He says half hiccup.

Oh man… That’s not cool. All things considered. “Oh Andrei,” I say remorsefully.

“And I came back.” He continues, I see his lips tremble as he tries to explain. This is definitely eating him up inside. “And I saw Kat. I was happy to see her. And… And she’s gone off looking for Logan. – Doesn’t even care.” He hiccups. He can’t even speak full sentences anymore. I roll onto my shoulder and put an arm around him. It might be awkward but it’s not like it’s the first time.

“Andrei. Did she say that?” I have to be careful with my implications. I wasn’t there.

“She didn’t have to.”

“Andrei… You know Kaitlyn. She would not go looking for Logan for any other reason other than to take him out. You’re being irrational.”

“Am I?” He says a little too quickly.

“Yes, you are. You’ve seen the scars he left on her. The physical ones and the mental ones. She probably didn’t know how to tell you.” I try to explain.

“So she’s told you too?”

“Told me what? I saw them in the bath yesterday. She doesn’t have to tell me anymore for me to know he’s messed with her head. You should know that better than anyone, Andrei.”

He flinches with a hiccup and shifts his arm a little. I pull away and lean back again, still facing him though. “She told me she likes you.” I try to say encouragingly.

“Then why can’t she stop thinking about him?” He asks. He’s hung up on that. I don’t blame him. After what happened in Japan, it seems he was looking for comfort and got ploy instead. He wasn’t ready for that, emotionally.

“She isn’t thinking of him in the same way she does you, Andrei. She’s terrified of him. She has every right to be. We’ve seen her physical scars but we don’t know the extent of her mental ones. Just like she doesn’t know all of your scars. You do a damn good job of hiding those.” I hear him huff. I think it’s an attempt at a chuckle.

“I tried to tell her… but I yelled at her Car. She pulled away and now I’ve screwed everything up… There’s no way she likes me anymore.”

“You are an idiot, aren’t you?” I say rhetorically. “Have you not gotten any sleep today?”  He rolls his head back and forth. He’s a wreck. “Okay, I’ll say it simply, so that even a tired Andrei could understand. Girls – it doesn’t matter what girl – all girls always want you to go after them when there’s a misunderstanding. It’s too forward if we seek you out. Deep down, there’s always a second chance for you to explain yourself, or whatever it was that went wrong. At least in a situation like this. But honestly, knowing Kaitlyn, she’s probably off somewhere glooming about this too. Did you stop to think that maybe stuff happened to her while she was away? And maybe, while you were confused in your own right about your stuff, she may have been confused in hers?”

Silence from the peanut gallery. I continue.

“You’re too strong and confident to sit here waiting for her. And she’s not confident enough to come looking for you. You of all people should know that. So, I have a proposition. You go get yourself cleaned up. If you need time, have a nap. And when you’re feeling more yourself, or awake, or alive, I suggest you go looking for her and tell her how you feel. And maybe try asking her what she’s confused about. Kay?”

He rubs his face and finally removes his arm. I see his red puffy, bloodshot eyes. It’s actually kind of scary. I wouldn’t recommend he go looking for her right away. Not until that… whatever that is, has gone away.

“Do you really think so? I don’t feel much like talking.” He pouts. He needs time but he needs to talk this out with her. Sooner rather than later.

“Yes, I do. But first, you need to fix yourself up and I suggest a clean pair of clothes. These are… well, you know.”  He looks down at his wrinkly shirt and raises an eyebrow.

“What? What’s wrong with my shirt?”

“Everything Andrei. It’s sweaty and wrinkly. You need a shower. Is that… rotten eggs?”

“It’s sulfur.” He grumbles.

“From what?”

“The hot springs in Japan.”

“Ohhh. That explains it.”

“Caroline…”

“Hmm?”

“Thanks.” He says softly. “You always know… how to fix it.”

“Well. I was just worried when you came back looking like the walking dead. That show freaks me out so I couldn’t let you become one of them.”

He grins ruefully.

By Kayla West

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