Skyelar stood in Elias' living room, the wedding gown tattered and filthy. What was once a pristine white ballgown with lace and taffeta was now yellowed and muddy. The hems were torn and shaggy. The bodice was browning with the drying blood; it dripped down onto the top of the skirt in streaks. She felt like a Mermaid that had just crawled out of the swamp. Barefoot, Skyelar glanced around the room for the first time. She had never been invited into Elias' house before. It was always an unspoken rule between them. If they were left alone in the comfort of one of their homes, something might happen. Not that it would matter anymore.
Skyelar was rid of Aezra. God, it felt great to say that! She was as free as the clumped and soaked strands of hair scattered out of her updo and onto her face and neck. With the swipe of a hand, she pushed them away. The living room was large yet cozy. A long, black leather couch sat in the middle with two plush chairs on either side to match. The eighty inch television was mounted to the wall with speakers scattered all around the room. Skyelar smiled; she was willing to bet he never watched television. This was probably just another thing to make him look more normal by Human standards.
Well, Skyelar thought he was plenty normal. Compared to her, anyway. She took a few cautious steps out of the living room and made her way into the dining room. Her still damp feet padded softly on the hardwood. She absently reached for the back of one of the tall, grey fabric chairs. Around the corner from her was the entry to the kitchen. The black and white tiled floor took her back to diners she had seen in movies. It amused her while reminding her that he probably frequented many of those diners in his day. Elias always said he was quite old.
Watching him, Skyelar's heart softened. He moved around the kitchen pouring them something to drink in his equally tattered and dirty suit. It was no matter. She was sure he would have it cleaned and looking brand new with the snap of a finger!
Elias met her in the dining room with a glass of white wine in each hand. "Skye, what are you doing? Sit down, give yourself a minute to breathe."
Skyelar looked down at herself as if just remembering she had struck her ex-fiance' with lightning. When she looked back up at Elias, her grey eyes were cloudy. She watched him put the wine on the table, and felt him take her hand. She followed him out of the dining room into the nearby hallway. There were doors on either side and one at the very end. He pushed open the door at the end of the hall to reveal an expansive master bedroom. For a moment, she simply stood, gaping at the sight. The black wooden posts and frame of the king-sided bed only served to accentuate the fluffy white comforter. The red pillows at the head and the blanket at the foot of the bed were romantic accents.
"You can change in here," Elias said softly. "Don't worry about getting anything dirty. I can replace it."
"I...don't have anything..." Skyelar spoke, hesitating to complete her thought. Her mind was still foggy with confusion. Was this real? Did she actually try to kill Aezra? Everything just happened so fast that reality had only just now caught up with her actions. It was surreal, remembering the fight she just had as if watching from outside her own body.
"Oh, uh..." Elias looked around his room and went into the large walk-through closet to the left. He pulled down a shirt and handed it to her. "You can just wear this until you get your clothes back."
Skyelar took the shirt from him and held it away from her body to avoid getting it dirty. Her head turned, following Elias as he walked out of the room, closing the door behind him. When she was alone, Skyelar glanced down at the shirt and tried to smile, but she found it difficult. Instead, the corners of her lips turned down and her nostrils flared as her eyes water in a sudden monsoon of tears. All at once, her legs gave out from under her, and she dropped to the floor. The dress billowed out like a parachute, engulfing her as her knees hit the hard floor. She ignored the pain, and leaned forward, letting herself fall into the borrowed shirt. With a heave of breath, Skyelar sobbed, her entire body trembling from the violence of it.
She was free. She could be herself again, living the Life she deserved. Happiness should have filled her heart with overwhelming sensations. Instead, the only thing she was overwhelmed by was the emptiness in her own head. For several minutes, she remained on the floor, staining Elias' shirt with her tears. After a moment, she straightened, clutching the dress shirt to her chest. His scent soothed her all the way into her core. That outdoorsy scent that had a hint of campfire. At last, she smiled.
She could do this. She chose to do this. The consequences were of her own doing, and Skyelar had every intention of accepting them, come what may.
Exhaling a controlled breath, Skyelar rose. With a flick of her fingers over her shoulder, the impossibly tiny buttons on the back of the dress came undone. As the layers the dress slid off of her body and pooled at her feet, Skyelar frowned again. She should probably try to clean it up and repair it before returning it to her mother. With a shrug, she decided against it. What was the point? It would only be wasted effort. Some stains were simply impossible to remove.
Tugging Elias' midnight blue dress shirt over her lacy undergarments, Skyelar immediately felt more refreshed. Looking around his bedroom one more time, it was tempting to fall into that soft bed and just let her worries drift away with sleep. But, no. That would help nothing. In Skyelar's experience, she was better off if she faced things head-on. So that's what she was going to do.
She opened the door and made her way back down the hallway, turning right to go into the living room where Elias sat, waiting for her. This time, he had the bottle in addition to the two glasses. The fact that he had yet to change out of his destroyed suit made her giggle to herself. Making her way to the couch, she sat next to him and reached for the glass in front of her. When the first drop of sweet wine touched her lips, Skyelar chugged the rest, not realizing how much she needed that drink.
"Feel better?" Elias smirked, sipping his own as he lifted a finger to top off her glass.
Skyelar nodded and took another sip before putting the glass back down on the table. Staring at Elias, Skyelar wondered where to go from here. What was her next move? She had to figure out how to rebuild her Life, but she wasn't quite sure what that Life was anymore. For six months, her every waking moment revolved around worrying about Aezra. Was he going to try to bite her today? What ingenuitive ways would he scheme up to convince her the Blood-Lust Exchange was worth it? How long could she deny him until she finally cracked?
Six months, as it turned out.
It was such a short Time in retrospect, but it felt like forever in the moment. Walking through Time with someone who had an eternity felt as though she was dragging her feet on so many things. Her research suffered; her appearances in church suffered; most of all, she suffered. So where did she go from here? Well, wherever her heart led her, she supposed.
She jumped when she heard the slam of a door outside and the choking rev of a half-dead engine attempting to roar to life. Elias rose from the couch and went to the door, opening it to observe the commotion. Skyelar tip-toed up behind him, peering over his shoulder to avoid being seen. She watched as Chloey Jo dragged Aezra's smoking body into his big truck. The girl was lucky the truck started at all after the damage that was done to it. Yet, she got it started enough to drive away.
Elias laughed and turned, not realizing Skyelar was so close to him. He held his hands up when he bumped into her, catching her as her body swayed backward from the gentle impact. She grabbed hold of his biceps and planted her feet right in front of his. Her eyes stared directly into his, getting lost in the forest of the green. She felt his thumb rub her arm in a small, tender movement. Her mouth fell slightly agape as gravity pulled her closer to him, her eyes fluttering as she tried to keep them open. She remembered clearly what his kiss tasted like, and she was suddenly thirsty for more.
"Skye," Elias whispered, pushing her gently away, "You've had a rough day..."
Closing her eyes on a sigh, Skyelar forced her body to step back. "More like a rough six months."
Elias nodded, slowly dropping his hands from her arms. "Be honest with me. Did you really end things with Aezra because of CJ? Or did you have another reason?"
Skyelar turned away from him, casting her eyes to the floor. That was something she had yet to be honest with herself about. Walking back to the couch, she grabbed her glass and finished it off, but did not replenish it. Liquid courage.
" I guess..." she sighed, plopping onto the couch again, propping her arm on the back with her head leaning against her palm. "I don't know...You know how places like Alaska have periods of no sunlight? I think that's how I've felt lately."
"You've felt cold and dark like Alaska?" Elias smirked, sitting next to her on the couch again.
She slapped him playfully. "Don't be a smart ass. You know what I mean. It was like I didn't want to be with Aezra, but I was compelled to be with him. Like it was just part of the natural cycle. Then, when I was with you last night, it felt like the darkness was finally gone." Her cheeks flushed a soft pink, surprising herself with her own frankness. "It's stupid, but I feel like I can see everything now. All the ways he was controlling me. I don't know. Hindsight, right?"
"It's not stupid," Elias shook his head. "It's better than living the rest of your Life in darkness, isn't it?"
Skyelar shrugged. "Yeah, but to answer your question, CJ was just a good way out. The perfect scapegoat at the perfect Time."
"So, if CJ hadn't done anything, would you have gone through with it all? Would you be married right now to Aezra?"
Skyelar paused, pondering that thought for a moment. As much as she wanted to say "no," she feared that would be incorrect. It was difficult to say what she would have done had things gone differently today. Aezra had such strong power. He convinced her to date him when she originally wanted to date Elias. Aezra convinced her to slow down on her work and spend more Time pondering over the Blood-Lust Exchange. Hell, if she really wanted to be honest, Skyelar knew he would have be drinking from her that night, if she had not woken up when she did. Her impossibly long slumber would have been to her detriment.
"I mean, his reasons were lame," Skyelar chuckled. "But his magic wasn't. I hate to say it, but if CJ hadn't done what she did today, I might have been dead by morning from the BLE."
"I like to think you're stronger than that," Elias frowned, shaking his head.
"I wish I was." Skyelar glanced down when her phone pinged. It was Nole, anxious to learn if she was still alive and well. She could confirm she was alive, but her condition remained to be seen.
"I can drive you back to the church," Elias offered.
"If it's okay with you, I'd like to stay here for a while. I don't think I'm ready to face everyone just yet."
Elias reached out and touched her hand, drawing her eyes back up to his face. "There's nothing for you to worry about. Everyone will understand. No one really liked Aezra anyway."
Skyelar laughed and her cheeks lifted to meet her eyes. He had a point. Nole had told her for some Time that he was worried about Aezra's intentions, but she knew her dear old dad would never impede on his daughter's happiness. She had so little of it in her Life. Yet, Aezra was not happiness. This was. This moment with a friend who knew just what to say to make her smile. This moment with a man who cared enough about her to let her wear his shirt without even making a move on her.
"There is one thing I don't understand from all this," Skyelar said at last. "Why did you help me? I've tried thinking about it, but I can't figure out what's in it for you. I thought we were going somewhere with our relationship, especially after last night. I mean, I'm in your shirt, and you haven't made a single move."
Elias laughed. "So that's what you think of me?"
"Shit." Skyelar shielded her face with her hand, embarrassment taking over. "No. That's not what I mean. It's just that this all seems like something out of a movie. You know, I'm the damsel in distress and you're the white knight who slayed the dragon so we can ride off into the sunset. Not you go one way and I go another."
"Well, I'm sorry to disappoint," Elias chuckled, putting a hand to his heart. "I'm definitely no movie star, let alone a white knight."
"God, I feel so stupid. I'm sorry I even said it. Forget it."
Elias reached up and removed her hand from her face, holding it so she would look at him again. "Skye, listen. I did it because I, honestly, don't want to know what it would be like to live in a world without you."
Skyelar pressed her lips together, nibbling on her bottom lip as her heart fluttered. Her hand warmed at the contact with his, and the clouds seemed to part from her grey eyes. No one had ever said anything so kind and genuine to her before, and her heart ached to live in this moment.
"But you know I don't want you to keep living like a damsel," Elias continued. "You're so much stronger than that. And I want to prove it to you because I know you don't believe me."
"Oh, yeah?" Skyelar teased, leaning closer to him. "And how do you plan on doing that?"
Elias' eyes stared at her lips as she leaned closer and closer to him. He inhaled her rainy day scent and goosebumps appeared on his arms, sending a visible chill down his spine. Skyelar grinned, thinking this was it. This would be the moment that changed everything for them. What should have began two years ago was finally beginning today. Yet, when Elias rose abruptly, leaving her to collect herself before she fell over, Skyelar was left disappointed again.
"I'm sorry, Skye," Elias said, shoving a hand through his hair. "I want to be here for you, but to help you with your magic. I know you have something brewing inside you just begging to come out. If you'll let me show you how to use it, then you won't be anyone's victim ever again."
Skyelar leaned back and rolled her eyes when her phone pinged yet again. It was for the best; she had just ended a whirlwind relationship, after all. Getting involved with Elias right now wouldn't be the best decision she ever made. Then again, she had made far worse. Still, it would be good to learn how to protect herself from the likes of Aezra or James. Although her grandfather did not have any magic, he had political force and that was worse. So she would allow Elias to be her magical mentor. It might be fun, and she needed someone to trust.
"Let's go," Skyelar sighed, rising from the couch. "Everyone's having a conniption. Hey, will you teach me more about that tattoo thing? I really like that."
"Sure," Elias grinned and nodded. He lifted a hand and wiggled a couple fingers to summon the wedding gown to them. "But, if you think that's cool, some of the stuff you didn't even know you could do will blow your mind."
"Oh, I'm counting on it," Skyelar winked, swaying her hips as she walked out the door in front of him.