I remember in primary school, I had a crush on Nate C, and I told all my friends about it. I would’ve been eight then, back when I was cute and innocent and the worst thing you could’ve called someone was a bullfrog. That’s what I called Gabby the Gab when she brought him over to where I was having lunch with Hannie and told him that I had a crush on him.
Later I got revenge and told her respective crush about her love for him. AND she was uninvited to my birthday party. I was a bitchy little kid.
The anger I felt when Gabby the Gab spilled my secret to Nate C was nothing compared to what I felt toward Jhaq when Daniel repeated word for word what she had said to him, though far more contained than then. Because Jhaq had meant no harm by saying anything, whereas Gabby the Gab was a scheming bitch.
When I confronted her about what she said, she flung herself at my feet and started shaking. I couldn’t be angry with her, no matter how much I wished to. “Jhaq…calm down now.” I helped her up and moved her onto the chair beside Daniel’s bed. “Take a deep breath, alright?” Slowly, she stopped shaking, as she realised that I wasn’t going to beat her. “Are you better?” I asked.
“Much,” whispered Jhaq.
“Good…” I inhaled. “When you told Daniel about…that, how did he react?”
She hesitated before starting. “His lord didn’t say anything, Miss Madigan,” she said.
“Was he…angry? Upset?” I don’t want to ask these questions, but I have to.
“His lord was…” Jhaq thought for a second. “Surprised.”
“Is that it?” I sat on the edge of the bed. “Nothing else?” She shook her head. “Great…”
Jhaq hesitated. “What…did his lord say to you?” she asked tentatively.
I took a deep breath. “He asked me if what you said was true.”
“And what did Miss…you say?”
“…I told him I didn’t know.”
She frowned, but continued. “And…he left?”
“His lord will return,” she said decisively. “It means nothing.”
I nodded and went along with what she said. Meanwhile, I was praying that things would return to the way they were, before his Grace came along and fucked up my emotions. I didn’t have feelings for Daniel, it wasn’t like that, I insisted. I cared for him deeply, but nothing romantic would ever come out of it.
I waited for him to return, sitting before the large fireplace, gazing into the flames. Hours and hours I waited, but the castle had gone silent and still he hadn’t come back.
I went into a dream of sorts. It wasn’t a bad dream, not at all. I was on a cliff top when I leapt off, plummeting down. But in an instant, I was soaring high into the clouds, the world becoming smaller in the blink of an eye. Though I was up in the clouds, I wasn’t cold. Dragons don’t feel cold when their blood is always boiling.
I woke up when I felt myself leaving the ground. My eyes fluttered open and I saw Daniel. He froze when he saw me gazing up at him. “It’s okay,” I told him. “I’ll go back to sleep in a moment, I’ll forget that I’m seeing you now.”
“You can’t control your mind,” he pointed out.
“I can try.” I closed my eyes, and I felt myself drifting away. In the distance, I heard Daniel sigh, and I started floating again. At some point, I drifted down to the soft earth, and I felt something feather soft stroking my face.
I awoke to see Daniel watching me. “Don’t look at me like that,” I murmured.
“Like you’re afraid of me. You’re the last person I want to do that.” I lifted myself up, and I found that I was on his bed again. “I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I just want you to know that it isn’t the way Jhaq may have described it.”
“Then what is it?”
“I…don’t know.” I look up at the ceiling, waiting for the answer to tumble out of the sky. When it didn’t, I tried to phrase it properly. “I…I care for you,” I said. “I…it’s not anything romantic, or…or anything like that. I’m just…I am…unused to this.”
“Unused to what?”
I took a deep breath. “Feeling safe, I suppose. I…can trust you, or at least I feel like I can. And I can’t say that for many others I know.”
“So why did you say to Jhaq that you had feelings for me?”
“I didn’t…I…” Daniel’s face is lost in the shadows, the right side of his face is full of darkness, where his eyepatch is. I can’t see what he’s thinking. “I…I told her that I was confused about my feelings. I didn’t say they were….”
I shook my head. “If I don’t understand, how can you? Look…” I tried again. “As you know, I haven’t had the best record with romantic relationships.”
“Oh, I know.”
I stuck my tongue out at him, which made him grin slightly. “Shaddup.” I hesitated. “How I feel for you…is not like how I’ve felt in…courtship.”
“Just say dating.”
“Fine. The feelings I have now aren’t like those I had towards my boyfriends at the time, compri?”
“Compri, he agreed.
“And recently, I’ve been questioning the nature of our relationship,” I said. “Mainly because….”
“Christan,” Daniel finished.
I frowned. “Be more specific.”
“I…may not have been completely asleep when he came to see you the other day,” he confessed. “I heard things.”
“Don’t look at me like that,” he scolded. “You would’ve done the same. A lot is said when people can’t listen.”
“Hmmph…” I didn’t know how I felt about Daniel taking in all that information. Nothing bad had been said, but still…
“So what happens now?” I asked him quietly.
He looked over. “What do you want to do?”
If I had just said what I meant to say all along, that he was my dearest friend and the last thing I would want was to lose him, that my confusion was nothing, and meant nothing, the conversation would’ve stopped there, and most likely would not have ever come up again.
Instead I asked, “What are you thinking?”
“What do you mean?”
“Okay…can I ask you something now?”
“When Jhaq told you, what were you thinking?”
He didn’t say anything, and I was immediately suspicious. “Daniel, what is it?”
He shook his head. “How I feel isn’t important.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Of course it is. It’s why you left after confronting me.”
“Cat, don’t be-”
“Daniel, what on earth were you thinking that was so bad that you can’t tell me about it?”
After a few seconds of completely breathless silence, he exhaled. “You don’t belong here,” he told me softly. “And I…I can’t be part of Reality any more. I lost that right years ago, I…”
“What?” I didn’t know what else to say. Daniel went silent and closed his eyes. Slowly, I took his hand. “What happened to you Daniel?” I whispered.
“I…” He looked at me strangely. “You won’t…hate me, for what I show you, will you?”
I frowned. “That…would depend on what you showed me. But I know that you wouldn’t.”
Daniel paused. Then slowly, he raised his hand to his head and pushed his hair aside, and showed me his temple. When I gasped, he dropped the hair and looked away.
I looked at Daniel, trying not to look as shocked as I felt. “May I?” I asked.
Daniel inclined his head, almost shyly. I reached out and I brushed his hair away to reveal the dark red wound, the size of a twenty cent piece. “I…I had no idea,” I croaked out. The shape of it, the way it concaves in the centre, it’s…it can only be one thing.
“The bullet didn’t leave my head,” he said hollowly. “When I arrived here, they had to open up my head and take it out.”
“Who shot you?” I asked. When he didn’t answer, I realised what he was talking about. “Oh Daniel…”
Tears were streaming out of his left eye. “Unlike you, I couldn’t be saved,” Daniel said emotionlessly. “Bullet in the brain…there’s no coming back from that. And then I woke up there…in the cells, where Kaya was. I…knew that place. I had seen it before, in my own visions.”
“Your…own…visions…” Oh no…Not Daniel…
He gazed up at me. “When I realised…I screamed at them to kill me then. Of course, they weren’t so kind. Unfortunately, before they could subject me to all the treatments, they put me in the path of Kaya…and you know the rest.”
I was stunned. “I…” I stammered. I had no idea what to say to him. All those times I had tried to take my own life…what did he feel?
Daniel smiled softly and touched my face. “In a way, I admire you,” he admitted. “You’re still alive, despite everything. Whereas at the first opportunity, I was selfish enough to take my life. Some said it would take a lot of courage, but…”
“I was just as selfish,” I reminded him. “I was just unlucky.”
“Or very lucky.”
We were quiet for moment. “I’m going to get you out of here,” he told me. “If I can do that one simple thing, then I’ll finally be able to see myself in a good light. Cat Madigan…” He gripped my hand. “You’re going to be my saviour.”
“I admire your faith in me,” I noted dryly. “But…you haven’t done anything wrong.”
“I haven’t done anything right either,” he said.
I thought for a moment. “You still haven’t answered my question,” I reminded him. “What did you feel when Jhaq told you?”
He hesitated. “Would you like me to answer?”
It didn’t take me long to choose. I wanted the truth, despite everything. I braced myself. “Go ahead Daniel.”