The Guild – Chapter 172 – Heath

     Cliff waves as he walks off. Apparently, he has other classes to manage this afternoon so he can’t stay longer. Despite what Selene says about him being a nuisance, I don’t find him to be all that bad. He seemed a bit nosy to my liking, especially with the strange tension between him and Selene, but over all, he wasn’t that bad.

     I dig my hands into my jean pockets, turning to Selene, “The poutine was good, eh?”

    Her beautiful grey eyes lift to look back at me and she smiles sweetly, totally different than when Cliff was here a moment ago. “It was,” She replies.

    “So, I’m guessing you don’t like Cliff,” I smirk, stepping right to walk away from the cafeteria. I don’t know where we’ll go next, but standing here feels awkward.

    “Cliff is a fine young man,” She muses with a sigh. “However, I don’t want to encourage his affections.”

    “He likes you?” I ask, surprised. I didn’t see that coming. “Wow.”

    “Yes. I’m not interested and he doesn’t seem willing to grasp that idea,” She purses her lips, frowning.

    I chuckle, “I can see that know,” He seems to me like a friendly giant bear of a man, after he stopped pestering her about me, of course. Here I am making things awkward again just by being here.

    “He was jealous of you,” She states out of the blue, “When he first walked up.”

    “Jealous? Do you think he saw… our hug?” I ask nervously. I had wanted to kiss her, but he interrupted the moment. I wonder just how much of us he saw before he spoke.

    “No, but your proximity was enough,” She scoffs. “When he learned I was helping you, he assumed that was it, and that’s when his attitude shifted.”

    “So… You’re saying he thinks he still has a chance?” I guess I better be careful of how much public affection I show, even if this is mostly Selene helping me.

    “By all means, don’t be careful,” She disagrees. “Apparently, I won’t convince him without a neon sign.”

    “He’s that dense, is he?” I chuckle, amused at the thought. 

    “You cannot imagine,” She gets a strange look on her face, looking away as if remembering something funny.

    “What?” I lean forward, trying to catch her eye. 

    She looks at me, curious. “Oh, there was a time, while he was sparring against Nik. Cliff unwittingly made so many innuendos, I simply had to leave the room. Nik thought it was hilarious and goaded him further. He had no idea what was so funny.”

    “Hah! Really? Wow… How old is he?” I imagine that would have been hilarious to watch, not to mention how beautiful she’d look laughing. I… should probably not think about that when she’s right here. She watches me sideways, lips twisted in an uneven smile. She definitely heard that.

    “I wonder what you would sound like too. I don’t imagine you’ve laughed much,” She hums.

    “I doubt there’s anything that could make me laugh. I don’t really find anything amusing enough to laugh that hard about. I prefer to avoid social interactions when I can,” I muse with a shrug.

    She rolls her eyes, “Right, because I spend so much time with people. The funny thing about laughter is that it’s infectious. You may be surprised.” 

    “I probably would be,” I smirk. Is she planning on making this a contest, to make me laugh? Good luck to her.

    “Contest?” Her brow raises. “Oh, sweet darling, that is not a challenge.” 

    I blush at the nickname she uses, struggling to maintain my composer as I formulate a response. “Y- you don’t think so?” 

    “I don’t have to think,” She says confidently.

    “Fine then, go ahead. See if you can make me laugh,” I say smugly. There’s no way she’ll make me laugh. I just don’t find things very funny, never have. “Where are we going anyway?” I ask.

    She looks up at the ceiling and hums, “What would you like to do?”

    I take a moment to think about it. “I don’t know. Maybe something outside?” Usually, I have work in the afternoon if I’m not training with Nik or Kaitlyn. I feel like I haven’t been outside in a while. I glance out of window as we pass by; the weather seems nice. Would an island like this have hiking trails?

    “Outside…” She mumbles. “I haven’t spent much time out there. The wards don’t extend very far beyond the Guild and town.”

    “Wards? Oh, are you hiding from Mortecai, even here?” I didn’t realise this place wasn’t fully protected. 

    She pouts, “Hiding is not a very nice way to put it. They know where I am, they just can’t reach me here.”

    “That’s still a bummer. Well, how about we stay here then. Want to see what the entire island looks like? Maybe there’s roof access or something,” I wonder.

    “There is, but the balcony may be safer for you. The roof is steep,” She changes direction.

    “Ahh, right,” I follow her, eyes sliding to her hand at her side. I’m tempted to take it, now that I can without accidentally burning her. I gnaw the inside of my cheek, trying hard to keep my thoughts silent. I don’t know if she’d like that or not.

    “Go on,” She whispers. “You don’t have to wait for me to offer every time.”

    “Right,” I shrug nervously. “Sorry.” I pull my hand out of my pocket and reach for hers. I don’t really know why I want to hold her hand, it just… I guess it feels nice. I wonder if she likes it too.

    “I like a lot of things about you, Heath,” She answers my unspoken question.

    My head snaps around. “You do?” What is there to like?

    “Plenty of things, you just don’t seem to see it,” She shrugs. “But then, I suppose everyone struggles to see the good in themselves.”

    “Yes, I can see that being true. Especially when you’ve been accused all your life of being the bad guy and bullied for being different,” I mumble. 

    “Perhaps that’s better than actually being the bad guy,” She suggests cryptically.

    “Wasn’t I, though? I had it then. I burned things… People… By accident. I couldn’t prevent it,” I glance to the side.

    “Being used doesn’t make you the bad guy. Being the bad guy requires the intent to do harm,” She scolds me. “We talked about this already.”

    “Right, sorry,” I brush it off again. I gotta stop talking myself in circles. As we start to climb some stairs leading up a tower she falls strangely silent, a faraway look in her eyes. I realise I’m a bit of a downer. Maybe this is going to be a problem. 

    “It’s not you,” She assures quietly. “Apologies. It’s hard not to get lost in a century of memories.”

    “Do you have other things on your mind you’d rather talk about?” 

    “No, no,” She smiles. “Why don’t you tell me of some other things you’ve wanted to try, but could not before?”

    I scratch my chin as I think, “Well, there’s a lot I just avoided thanks to a bad experience in my youth. I never played games or sports because of this one time I melted a basketball during gym class. No one wanted to play with me after that.” I don’t imagine it’d be much fun anyway, running around… with friends.

    Stop that. Stop thinking like that, I scold myself. Sure, I don’t have friends, or rather, didn’t, but here… All things considered, maybe I do have friends here. They’ve had similar hardships, similar disadvantages. Maybe I could consider them my friends… Once I figure out how to control this stupid magic.

    “I can think of a few of the boys, and some girls who I’m certain would adore the opportunity to play games with you,” Selene nods thoughtfully. “It’s not my cup of tea, but I wouldn’t mind watching, cheering and whatnot.”

    “Really? You think they’d… teach me?” I feel a warmth in my chest, thinking about the others maybe getting together and showing me how to play. I wonder if I could enjoy it like they do.

    “I know they would,” She grins. 

    Somehow, I doubt that a little, but I try to not let that get me down. I’d like to try at least. We’ve reached the end of the stairs. The landing at the top of this tower seems quite narrow. At the other side of the landing is a door which leads to a small balcony with a stone railing. I feel a steady breeze against our faces as we step out onto the balcony that looks out over the Northeast side of the island. The balcony doesn’t quite wrap around the entire spear of the tower, but it does cover a wide view to both the West and East.

    The view is stunning. We’re almost at the tallest point of the Guild. Below we can see the copper-plated roof and the sprawling little town just outside the Guild’s walled-in grounds. The fields surrounding the outer town spread out for quite a distance in all directions until they abruptly end in cliffs that drop into the ocean below. It seems there are no ports on this island and not many boat-accessible beaches, unless you were willing to climb up the cliffs from the rocky shores below. In one direction I see a small sandy beach, facing the Southwestern shore. I don’t know much about weather, but if I recall correctly, it seems that’s the direction ocean storms like hurricanes would come from, so I guess it makes sense that the cliffs would have been eroded down into a beach there.

    I lean on the railing with my left arm, hand still coveting Selene’s as I stare out over the beautiful island. The sun looks to be about halfway down the sky from its peak and the deciduous vegetation is becoming more and more green. Already, some flowering trees have bloomed in the town and out on the fields. “It’s beautiful,” I breathe, eyes taking it all in. It vaguely reminds me of the view from the Chateau Frontenac.

    Selene hums, “I’d have to agree.” Her hand slips out of mine as she hops up on the stone railing, barely wide enough for her to sit. She looks down at me, looking away from the view.

    My stomach drops just from watching her. “Oh my God, Selene!” I hiss. “Get down from there! You’re gonna get yourself-” I stop… killed? All my muscles tense out of instinct, despite knowing she would just come back, but something in me doesn’t want her to risk that. “Would you please get down from there?”

    She tilts her head to the side, pondering. “Why? A fall from this height isn’t so bad.” 

    “Are you kidding me?” I gasp. I look down, gritting my teeth. “You gotta be kidding me, Selene!” I look back up. Just seeing her so poised and relaxed on the railing hundreds of feet off the ground makes me scared of heights. 

    She reaches out, resting her palm on my cheek. “It’s alright, love. I’m not afraid.”

    How can she be not afraid? It would still hurt, wouldn’t it? My heart flutters faintly as her hand touches me, my ears ring with the sound of her words. I don’t know how to not be afraid for her, even when I know she’ll be okay. “I- I…” I stutter. “How?”

    “You may be surprised how quickly the pain subsides when death takes you,” She explains calmly, glancing down over her shoulder. “From this height, you only feel the impact for a second.”

    I nod, scrunching my lips together before I grip the railing myself and pull my legs onto it, “Fine. If you can, then I will too.” I shake a little as I try to keep my balance, swinging my right leg over the railing and then my left as I sit on the edge, facing out over the island. My knuckles are white with the tension I feel, holding myself in place.

    “Don’t force yourself,” She whispers, resting her hand on my shoulder.

    “If it’ll only hurt for a second, then what should I be scared for, right?” I turn to her giving her a very forced smile of confidence.

    “Your death is permanent,” Her expression grows serious. “If you fall, I’ll have little choice but to follow, and even then I cannot guarantee I would reach you quickly enough to stop it.”

    I look down, the height deepening before my eyes as I stare at the roof tops below. “I know. I would likely die, but there aren’t many I would be leaving behind and it’s not like I haven’t felt death before. I don’t want to be scared. I’m always scared. You’ve made it plainly obvious that the fear has prevented me from enjoying life.”

    “Fear of hurting others,” She corrects. “All men fear death, and for good reason. It is final, unless you happen to be close enough to myself,” She adds with a wink.

    I look at her with a curious expression. “How does being close to you change things?” I ask her.

    “I can, and will, trade places. You would live, and I would die,” She says simply, as if it were an easy math equation. “I’ve done this several times in the past.”

    “You have?” I turn away, again looking down. “I guess… I’m not saying I’m not afraid to die. I am, no doubt. For a few days I thought that was my only option, the only way to escape him, but now… After meeting you…” I let my words trail way. I feel silly saying it allowed, like I’m back in high school, trying to confess to Monica that I like her. Just look how that turned out.

    She hums, “But now… Perhaps you shouldn’t push your luck. Come back onto the balcony.”

    I tilt my head toward her as she looks back at me. A question pops into my mind suddenly and I blurt it out without thinking. “What did you mean when you said you agreed? You weren’t looking at the view,” I point out.

    She chuckles, a mischievous look in her eyes. “You caught that, did you?” Her gaze drops and her cheeks flush a light pink. “Did you perhaps notice then, what I was looking at?”

    It takes me a moment to realise and I feel my cheeks burn as I blush. How does she make me feel this way? It’s… something I’ve believed I might never feel. Flattering? I’m not really sure. It’s different than how I confessed to Kaitlyn. With that, I’m not even sure if that was really me or him. Now though, I know  it’s just me and I feel a little light headed.

    I turn my hand around, shifting my weight to get off the railing but the feeling isn’t just my imagination. I wobble dangerously on the railing, gripping the stone in a panic. My adrenaline rushes as I grab the stone and I feel my heart races as I fall backward. I squeeze my eyes shut, expecting death to come, like those dreams you get that never end, but something seems to cushion my head.

    I peak an eye open and a take a minute to breathe as I realise I’m not falling, but laying on the floor of the balcony instead. My eyes search for Selene, her eyes wide with fear, still perched on the rail. Her skin looks paler than normal; It’s hard to tell in the light of the setting sun. I watch as her chest heaves, breathing heavy, hand stretched out toward me, hovering in the air. I look back at her and she seems to relax, relieved.

    “Don’t be so reckless,” She scolds, quickly turning her gaze away from me. Is she mad at me?

    “I-I’m sorry! It was a bad idea. No more railings, I promise,” I apologize, pushing myself up weakly as I attempt to console her. I reach out for her, wanting to make sure she’s okay, as if she were the one who nearly fell to her death, and not me. The sun sits just behind her now, from this angle, making her hair glow like silver. It almost looks like a halo of light on her head.

    I stumble to my feet and close the space between us. She’s still perched on the railing, looking sideways, avoiding me. I rest my hand over hers, holding the railing, and tug it to my chest. “I’m sorry. I won’t do that again. I swear,” I assure her, leaning in toward her. She turns to face me and our brows meet.

    Her eyelashes flutter against my face as she looks into my eyes, so close together. I can feel her heartbeat pounding through her hand, or is that mine? I’m not sure. “You’d better not,” She grumbles. “Did you think I would just let you fall?”

    “I wasn’t really thinking at all. I was trying to get down…” I scramble in defense.

    “I know,” She reminds me. “Still, I won’t allow you to die, so don’t even consider it.”

    My lip trembles at her words. “Why? You don’t even know me that well…” I realise the stupidity of my words as they pass my lips, but still, we’ve only  known each other for a few days. Could it possibly be true that she  feel this way about me so suddenly, and that I too, could like… No, more than like her, like this? I don’t know what love is like, but, can it be sudden like this? Is this even real?

    “Why?” I repeat softly, feeling my voice crack with the emotions swirling inside my head and heart.

    She shakes her head. “Foolish boy…” She mutters, tilting her head back to press her lips against mine.

    I lose my train of thought at the touch of her lips, and inhale the sweet cherry scent that comes with them. I hug her close, still holding her hand to my chest as we kiss. They’re warm against the cool breeze that blows around us. My heart skips, not wanting this moment to end.

    She pulls away, too soon, with a sigh. “Now, before all this… We came up here to admire the scenery, yes?”

    “Yes,” I mumble with disappointment. Her grey eyes study me, curiosity plain in them. What is she thinking now, I wonder?

    She continues to stare back, not gracing me with an answer. When this becomes clear, I slide my eyes to the side with a faint hint of a smile. “I am taking in the scenery. It’s quite radiant from up here,” Maybe it sounds stupid, but it’s at least an attempt to flatter her.

    She smirks knowingly, “Isn’t it just?” 

    “Yes,” I breathe, leaning in for another kiss. Her arms move to hook around the back of my neck and I slide mine around her waist so there’s no chance of either of us falling over without the other. Her lips twitch and she snickers without breaking contact. 

    “What?” I think for her, amusingly.

    “Your concern is adorable,” She replies.

    “I’m glad you think so.”

    We leave the roof hand in hand, a desire in our hearts.

***

    I slip through the door after her and softly shut it as my heart races with anticipation. I turn around to face her and let my eyes glide over her stunning figure. She lets her hair down as I approach, my arms stretched out for her. I feel a nervous excitement despite having already done this once before. Well, maybe I never really did it myself… Maybe I’ll never get used to this.

    I lose myself to her touch as we undress and tangle beneath the sheets until long after the dinner hour. I feel an overwhelming happiness in my chest, something I’ve not felt in a very long time. I don’t even recall the last time I felt this way. I hope it sticks around, even when I do get my magic back. I almost wish it would stay away forever. Then maybe I could truly be myself with her.

By Kayla West

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