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Chapter four: The Plains Of Hashin
Among the many qualms in my world I knew that there was at least one certainty: I could never tire of watching Mia sleep.
She was so very peaceful; it made me feel peaceful, too. Simply being near her wrapped me in an embrace of absolute serenity. A light wind picked up, playing in her long hair and making it swirl around her restful face. I sat and watched over her, caressing every line of her face with my eyes, memorizing it. She was even more beautiful than when she was awake, if that is possible. She quite literally took my breath away. Again, I felt the yearning to touch her creamy skin. Stupidly, I reasoned with myself that we only had so much time left together, and that I should not waste a single second. While keeping my distance emotionally, of course. But what could a little physicality hurt? Myself and no one else. Just my masochistic self. She would not be the wiser. I crept just a little bit closer, watching to make sure she didn’t wake. I reached toward her with shaking fingers, laying my palm upon her cheek. Her skin was softer than anything I had ever touched or could imagine touching. My fingers prickled with electricity. It was indescribable. I stroked my fingers along her jaw, traced the shape of her perfect crimson lips, and eyelids. Her lashes were long and feathery, brushing her cheek. So beautiful. I brushed away a strand of her hair from her twitching nose, and then combed through it with my fingers. Her hair was like water. The curls flowed through my fingers and pooled back around her head, only to be rippled again by the wind. I placed my hand back on her cheek.
It was then that she began to dream.
Her eyelids twitched with REM sleep. Her lips curved into a contented smile. Her fingers curled around some unseen object. She was such a beautiful dreamer; I wanted to be in on the secret. Just this once.
My fingertips blazed. I wondered almost drunkenly if maybe skin contact would grant me access to her thoughts. But then I realized that maybe it could. I was a little disappointed to find that the fire in my fingers was not passion but electric brain waves. But no matter. I would trade passion for a chance to get to know the girl that had found my heart for me, if only to steal it again.
With nothing to lose, I lifted the barrier that separated her mind from my own.
The sun was beginning its slow descent into the silver reflective water. They were in the old chair swing, letting the breeze rock it back and forth. He had his arm around her and was holding one of her hands. She leaned her head on his shoulder, and he turned to look at her with his diamond-green eyes. He took his hand out of hers to brush a lock of her hair out of her eyes. His palm came to rest on her cheek He leaned toward her. She closed her eyes…
It was dark. Their hands swung carelessly between them as they strolled down the path. The starlight made his black hair shine ebony. Soon they came to the clearing. The konces and the taves made beautiful music. He asks her to dance and they twirl together, faster and faster, until all she can see is the swirling night sky…
The orchestra starts in with another slow song. An old man tapped him on the shoulder, wanting to cut in, but he didn’t notice. He just kept twirling her around the ballroom dance floor, faster, faster. Old women eyed them with half-masked disapproval, while their daughters fluttered patterned fans around their faces, giggling and fluttering their eyelashes at him. she laughed at them all. He laughed too. There was a piano forte decrescendo, and he dipped her so low that her hair trailed on the ground.
She watched his fingers move over the piano keys. The keys he pressed didn’t correspond with the sounds it made. The song was low, and sad. The music seemed to speak to her, but she couldn’t understand what it was telling her. Once, she could have understood. But now all she heard was sad music. She panicked as she realized that she had forgotten the language of music. She listened harder, trying to call the language back to her, but the notes kept dwindling away. Soon there was only one repeated note. The hooded figure at the piano turned to her. she saw that he had no face. She looked beside her. The figure scared her, and she wanted to hold the green-eyed boy’s hand. But he was no longer there. She turned and ran out of the great room.
Her footsteps echoed through the burning corridor like a single repeated note on a piano. She couldn’t run fast enough. She knew that if she ran faster, she would get to him before it was too late. She could feel the flames catching up to her, and she tried to make her legs go faster. The flames closed around her. The heat was burning her face. She screamed, and suddenly his name formed itself on her lips. Quesaryn! QUESARYN! QUESARYN!”
She sat bolt upright in the sand, gasping. My hand dropped from her face like I was holding a hot coal. I could still feel the fire from her dream…and I realized that the sun was up. I was facing away from it, so it wasn’t literally burning my skin, yet. It didn’t matter, really.
Mia was staring at me, her expression blank. Her blue eyes were wide with the horror of her nightmare. I stared back. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. The green eyed boy had looked strangely familiar. I could almost make the connection…
Mia’s voice pierced through my concentration. “Quesaryn, I know you!” she shrieked.
And then she launched herself at my face.
Mia’s lips were soft on mine as she kissed me with an almost frantic fervour. My hands instinctively went to her waist, as though I had kissed her many times before. She twined her fingers in my hair…and then my mind caught up with my body and I grasped that I was kissing her.
Gasping, I gently yanked my self away from her. She cried out and reached for me again, but I pinned her arms to her sides and held her away from me at arms length. Her eyes were wide.
My words came out strangled and hoarse. “Mia…what are…you… doing?” I gasped, breathless and confused.
She grinned, and started to babble. “I can’t believe I found you! At first, when I started dreaming about you, I didn’t know what it meant. I knew it must have had something to do with my memory-loss thing and that I must have known you before the fire, but after a while I began to think you weren’t even real! But I still waited for you. And to think you were always here all along! Do you remember me? is that why you saved me? oh, wow! I can’t believe this! Thank you! I wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for you! How have you been? Do you—”
“Mia, Mia, Mia!” I found my voice again. “Slow down! What are you talking about?”
“You’re the green-eyed boy in my dream!” she exclaimed. I gaped at her. she frowned slightly. “I have to admit you look way different, but still, I would know you anywhere.” She tugged on a strand of her hair, agitatedly, but her eyes still shone with unmasked exultation as she gazed up at my still form. I pulled up my hood; to hide my face in turn from Mia, and the sun.
“Oh right! your skin. I forgot about that. What is that all about anyway? Never mind, you don’t have to tell me. I have the rest of our lives to figure it out!” she laughed, then, a carefree laugh that made her positively glow. I felt positively wretched. This was not the rebellious young woman I had met yesterday. She seemed like a child now.
“Hey, will you let go of me? my arm is falling asleep.”
My head was spinning. The boy had looked like me, a younger, brighter version, before the hair/skin pigment removal surgery. With that realization, the last of the reason in my life crumbled around me.
It was, hypothetically, possible that she was right. …my memory loss thing…after the fire. so she, too, had suffered from memory loss. I wondered when. If she was right, it could explain the déja vu, and the fact that she dreamed about me, when I was young. And how familiar kissing her felt. I thought of my list of why I couldn’t love her. I had thought she couldn’t love me. Now that I knew she could—and apparently did— one tiny, insignificant piece of my resolve crumbled.
Finally, she picked up on my mood. Her smile melted. Like a dying candle. “You haven’t said anything…are you okay with this?” she sounded uncertain, but transparently hopeful. It tore at what was left of my heart.
“You’re telling me that I loved you in some other life and you think I am okay with it?” I asked, appalled. She looked at me, uncertainty becoming the most dominant expression.
I sighed. “Think about it, Mia. How could that even be possible?”
She flipped her hair. “With love, anything is possible. Actually, I am surprised I didn’t figure it out earlier. It was so obvious.”
“Well, it was the only way that you could have found the strength to save me from them.”
I didn’t have anything to say to that.
“Aren’t you glad to see me?” she asked.
She stared at me, not comprehending. “No?”
“You make me nervous, Mia. And unsettled. Everything I thought I knew was destroyed the moment I met you.”
“Destroyed?” she echoed. She sounded far away.
Suddenly, the vacant look faded from her eyes. She focused on me. I tried to keep my face as resolute as I could. “No. This isn’t possible.”
“That’s what I have been trying to tell you, Mia. Times change. People change. I am not who you think I am, for I am not the boy you thought you knew.”
“That’s not what I mean. I know who you are, Quesaryn. I have been dreaming about you for the past four years, and now I have finally met you. In person. And I know you recognized me, too. I could see it in your eyes.” She began to pace. “We got separated somehow. And now we are back together. So stop trying to be a hero. If you don’t love me anymore, that’s fine—”
“I can’t love you, Mia.” I daren’t.
“—but don’t think you have to protect me.”
“I do have to protect you, damn it! Why can’t you see that? I can’t protect you if I can’t even think!”
“I was doing just fine, all these years. All those years…”
To my utter horror, her face crumpled and she began to cry. She sank to the ground and put her head on her knees.
What had happened to my warrior princess? Feeling like a terrible person, I dropped beside her and put a hesitant arm around her shaking shoulders. “Oh, Mia. I’m sorry. Don’t cry. Shhhhh.” It was the only thing I could think of to say.
Her broken sobs pierced my heart. “I’m just so happy!” she blubbered. “And yet so sad. It doesn’t make any sense!” don’t I know it, I thought grimly, rubbing her back faster. She clung to me like a child. “Don’t leave me,” she wailed. “Don’t leave me.”
“Mia, stop. You’re breaking my heart.”
“You broke mine first!” she screamed. “All those years, I waited for you to come back to me. I didn’t care how long it took, if I could see you one more time. and now I have, and you say you don’t want me…” she was sobbing again.
“I never said I didn’t want you, Mia. I said I couldn’t love you.” And I didn’t say I didn’t love you, either.
“That’s the same thing,” Mia whimpered. She was still holding on to me like she was afraid I would disappear if she let go. “I wanted you so badly. I dreamed of our reunion. I wanted to—wanted to—” her voice was cut off by another round of sobs.
“Wanted to what?” I prompted. I avoided looking into her eyes. I wanted to let go of her and run away, if only to feel the pain of her absence. I didn’t deserve to get to hold her like this. And I would try my damnedest to make sure I didn’t get to do it again. Right after this moment passed.
“I wanted you to kiss me and tell me that you’d missed me, too. I wanted you to hold me and tell me that you’d never let go. I wanted you to be happy. Happy to see me.” She took a deep shuddering breath.
I had thought she had completely totalled my heart, but she just kept finding more pieces to shatter. I wondered if there was a limit.
If I didn’t reach it after what I was about to do, I didn’t think I ever would. It would be death all over again.
“Mia.” She looked up at me. There was fear in her eyes for what I believed to be the first time. “If I do all those things, for you, will you be happy, then? If I kiss you and all that?”
“If you mean it,” she said, scrubbing her eyes with a fist. They were red and puffy, but still vibrantly blue. Her golden lashes were sparkling with diamond-like tears.
Oh well, I thought. If I’m to go to hell, I may as well get there first class.
Taking a deep breath, I took her chin in my hands. My stomach did a strange flip. Her eyes widened. I felt nervous and uncertain. I had never kissed a woman before (obviously). I tried to call up all the kissing scenes in the books I had read. They said to move in slowly, to build anticipation…
Mia, though, was having none of that. She threw her arms around my neck, tossing the hood back from my face, and pulled herself up the rest of the way to my lips. Before I had any time to object, I was kissing her.
For the first time, I let myself feel the emotions I had been suppressing ever since I had met her. Love. Fear. Pain. Hope. I try to tell her how I couldn’t bare to lose her, and yes, I am glad to find her again, on some level at least. How afraid I am of hurting her. I feel like a great burden has been lifted from my back, a burden I hadn’t been aware of until it was gone.
My hands slid down to her waist, and she holds on to my face, like she plans to never let go. I decide I could live with that. I press her as close to my body as I possibly can without crushing her.
I trail my lips along the line of her jaw until I reach her ear. She shivers delicately.
“I love you, Mia Avory. I have missed you, all these years, even though I didn’t know it. My life was a dark abyss of nothingness before I met you. You make me feel whole. Thank you for finding me.”
I sought her lips, solely for the sake of kissing her again. We lay like that, together again, if only for the span of a prolonged heartbeat. Evening came and then morning; and that was the second day.
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