Chapter 13 FALLING
Aurel Manor, New Orleans.
Time had begun to make sense now that Aella was with me, and three days had passed ever since. For each of those days, I felt what it was like to have someone to wake up to and that made me realise how fast time could pass. We spent each day talking, familiarising with each other’s world with laughter never lacking. And all that, we did in our minds right under the noses of our captors. No one knew of the bond Aella had with me-that we could share thoughts and have telepathic conversations in our minds. Thanks to that, I had come to know her and it made me feel as if I had known her my whole life. It was almost as if she was the part of me that I had lost, the one I just found days ago.
When we were not talking in our minds, Aella would take me into the spiritual realm. That was what I looked forward to everyday. In that realm, everything was possible. We were not locked up in some dungeon and we were not in separate cells: We were free, we had the world and we could share it together. I knew it was probably really crazy to have these feelings for her when I barely knew her, barely spent a handful of days together.
But no, I did know her. Through the spirit realm, she had shown me her family and though I couldn’t talk to them, I had learnt a lot about them from watching their past. We did that with Aella: sit for almost a whole day just watching the memories of her family and mine too. The best thing about the spiritual realm was that time did not exist in it and if it did, we could bend it to our will. We made a day in the real world into a year in our world and for every hour that we were in the realm it was as half a month to us. So I actually did know Aella for a long time, six months possibly, counting every hour that were in the realm from the first day I had traversed it with her. And if I could recall the happiest moments in my life then these ‘virtual’ six months had to be top on the list.
I also learnt to manipulate energy in the spiritual realm. Aella taught me how to open the gates to time, to places and memories- into minds and places which I didn’t even know they existed.
From that knowledge we had built our own world together. Six months savoured in travelling to places I had only dreamt of going. We had stood on the pinnacle of the Statue of Liberty, shared a sunset from the top of Mt Everest, had a cup of tea in the Buckingham Palace, jumped off the Niagara and played hide and seek in the Pyramids. Yeah, I even dragged Aella to the Champion’s League finals at the Wembley Stadium and that was a few months into the future. I never knew how much more alive I could feel until I shared all of that with her.
In my heart and mind, I knew that all the places I had gone were hardly the reason for such happiness. I was certain of that because for me, there was no beauty in this world that could compare to hers. No sunrise brighter than her smile, no skies more blue than her eyes. And sometimes I wished that I could tell her that. I couldn’t even let her know that I liked her. I was the biggest fool in the world, I was sure of that. Maybe I was afraid of how she would react. Or maybe I knew exactly how she would take it and that had me petrified.
She was a flawless beauty: graceful and powerful. Even more, she was the leader of the Angeions. Aella had lived more than a thousand years and vanquished the Fallen and Nephilim. Yet who was I? Just a seventeen year old boy. I could not even boast of a flawless face with all the zits constantly plaguing my already weakened self-confidence. I could not be anything more than her friend and that was clear to me from the very first day we had met.
But all that wasn’t going to stop me from having the time of my life and today, I was out to get it.
“Nickkkkkkyyyyy,” Aella called out from a far.
“I’m coming,” I shouted back, digging my feet in the wet sand as I ran towards her.
We were just from playing beach volleyball or at least our spirits were. In real sense, I knew we were locked up somewhere in New Orleans. But that didn’t matter because as far as I could tell, it was sunny and I was at the beach with the most beautiful girl in the world.
“Hey, what took you so long?” Aella asked, throwing her legs up and down on the blanket she had sat upon.
“I went to get you something, don’t be so ungrateful,” I answered back in feigned reproach, joining her on the beach blanket.
“Awwwww,” she exclaimed when I showed her the shells-necklace I had made her.
Her face lit up. She looked so beautiful I could spend the whole day staring at her.
“What are you waiting for staring at me? Help me put it on,” Aella said as she gathered her black curls from her neck to the front and then turned her back to me.
I almost freaked out beyond possible recovery. But I didn’t, even though it took me a while to compose myself and get my hands to stop trembling.
I touched her neck gently as if it was the most fragile thing in the world and put the necklace round it. The shells were glittering in the bright sun but that did not capture me as much as her skin did. It was soft and smooth like silk and the sunlight splashing on it made it bask in graceful beauty. I fastened the golden threads that held the shells together with a knot and then I took my hands off her neck before she could accuse me of ‘going too far.’
“Okay, it’s done,” I announced.
She turned to me and smiled, brushing her fingers on the shells round her neck.
“It’s so beautiful…” Aella said in a dreamy voice as she looked at them.
This was a moment I would cherish for all my days, I knew. To see her smile; it was so amazing.
Aella shifted her body towards me and kissed my cheek. It was so abrupt and unexpected that I froze. She chuckled, smiling her cheeky smile as she shook her head at my hopelessness.
“Thanks Nicky,” she said.
My heart was thumping inside my chest. If I didn’t know better I’d have sworn that her lips had made an impression on my cheeks-I could still feel her kiss on my cheek. I could barely mumble words in response to her thanks so I managed with a coy smile and a blush. What kind of a guy was I?
“I wonder if it matches with my beachwear…”
“I thought Hannora got all the fashion sensitive genes.” I teased her, thankful that that mushy moment had passed.
Aella stood up on the blanket, hands on her waist with a questioning expression plastered on her face. I inclined my head towards her, taking in the sight. She looked so amazing and breath-taking. I never knew I could make a necklace that beautiful. I smiled at that ridiculous thought. Of course I knew it wasn’t the necklace that was beautiful. She could have a strand of rag around her neck and still be this enchanting.
I stared dreamily at her. Her silky black curls tipped to the left fell smoothly over her left arm which had risen to touch her slender neck in a sassy posture. Her almond shaped eyes shone brightly beneath her sharp and well cut eyebrows. I could lose myself in the sea of blue that her eyes were or just in the simple movements of her eyelids which often fluttered momentarily with the rush of the sea breeze upon her face. The sky blue tank top that she had on exposed the upper part of her chest which I had decorated with the necklace of shells. The smooth shiny surface of the shells blended with her radiant skin in a delicate balance that was simply mesmerising. She had asked if the necklace matched with her beachwear. Well, it did more; it was perfect.
Even though I had come to that conclusion and could just answer her question and stop staring, I still could not keep myself from savouring the intricacy with which her feminine shoulders slid to join her collar bone. Neither could I desist from marvelling at the U shaped patch of bare skin in between the straps of her top from which her slender neck arose and under which her bosom lay, safely covered from prying eyes. All one could make of them was from the impression they made on the top’s surface: perfectly shaped, perfectly sized. Her body curved down in inch perfect curves to her waist, rising outward in well-defined hips. That’s where her top ended and began her short pants adorned with brightly coloured summer flowers on a pink background. Then where the pants ended her thighs began…
I snapped back to reality. Wow, I seriously needed to work on my staring time.
“It does match, it looks amazing on you Aella,” I said, wondering how it was that of all the descriptions that I had running through my mind, all I could manage to say was ‘amazing’…
Aella chuckled and lowered herself to the blanket. She placed her hand on mine and I could feel my heart thump faster than it had ever done before.
“Thanks a lot Nicky, for everything. For forgiving me for putting you in this place…”
“Please…it’s okay Aella,” I said gently.
I could feel my heart take over my words and I feared for the ones that would come out next.
“The past few days that I have been with you…or months...,” I started, staring into her azure eyes as I chuckled lightly.
She laughed softly with me, looking into my eyes as well. I felt all the fear I had in me melt away and I held her hand tighter.
“…have been the most amazing in my life. I have never felt so happy and content. It’s as if I have lived through every beautiful thing in this world. I have seen the wonders of the world, climbed the tallest mountains, and been to the greatest places on earth. Yet of all of that, not one of them is the reason why I feel this happy and content…”
I hadn’t notice how close we were. I could feel Aella’s breath on my face. This was real, this and now. Not our bodies cooped up in some cell. No, our spirits, here, together in this world we had made.
“I thought about this and many things. I’ve searched my soul for the reason I feel this happy, the reason for this happiness that brims inside my heart…”
“And what did you find…?” Aella asked softly.
The distance between us was so close that she only needed to whisper for me to feel her magical voice inside my ears, reverberating to the deepest points of my heart.
“That a thousand years in a cell would feel just as happy if I was with you…” I said softly.
I took her hand and brought it to my chest. I could feel its warmth and the softness of her skin.
“This heart…,” I open my mouth, words barely forming, “it beats...for only you…”
“Nicky…” Aella called my name in a whisper.
I could see the turmoil in her eyes, they were almost tearing. Did I say something wrong, something to upset her? My heart sank. I could feel my palms getting wet with sweat.
I should stop this madness right now…
What was I doing? No…I couldn’t stop now; I had come this far. I was not going to stop now.
“Aella…what I found from searching within myself, I have never been surer of anything before…. I’ve never felt so sure about someone…Aella…I…I love you Aella…”
I always thought that the first time I’d say the three words to someone it would be so epic like in some romantic fiction. I’d hold my darling’s cheek and profess my love to her in a deep manly voice. I did not understand why my voice had broken at the time that I needed it the most. Wow, had she even understood what I had said…?
“Nicky…” Aella whispered my name again, her voice trembling.
She was welling with emotions. A tear broke from her eye, rolling down to her cheek. This was more than I could bear. I looked away.
My heart froze.
Aella put her hand on my cheek, turning my face to hers. A tear fell from my eyes splattering against her hand as she held my cheek.
“I love you too Nicky…,” she whispered, repeating her declaration in its completeness: the words I would have given anything in this world to hear her say a thousand times, words that enslaved my heart as soon as they hit my ears, words that made my heart hers, from then on to all eternity.
“…but…,” she continued, “this…it’s not real.”
I could feel all the air expunge from my lungs. Suddenly, I was suffocating like a fish drawn out of the sea. Maybe I was a fish indeed: a fish drawn out of a world where everything made sense and plunged into one where everything was confusing and new.
“What do you mean?” I managed to mumble.
“Maybe what you feel for me is not real…I mean…we are not in the physical world…”
“It is…,” I said weakly, “you taught me that, remember?”
“I don’t know…,” Aella said and she looked away from me.
“What’s wrong Aella?” I asked, my voice echoing with sadness. “Why can’t it be real, why can’t we be real?”
“Because we can’t…,” she said faintly.
I could feel my heart ripping to shreds. I was crying, I realised. What kind of a man cried this much? Like a fool… I couldn’t see her face but somehow I knew that it too was marred with tears.
“Why?” I asked softly, “Is it because you are ashamed of me…? I’d understand if I you were…I’m just a weak human.” I turned her face gently to me by the chin. “Please tell me why…”
“Don’t be silly Nicky…,” Aella said with a faint smile. She wiped off a tear with her hand. “It’s not you…it’s me…”
Suddenly, anger was rising up my chest. She could have just told me straight that my weakness disgusted her instead if sugar coating her rejection.
“Wow Aella, please spare me that crappy cliché…” I whispered coldly, unable to stay the acid from my chest from flowing into my words.
Aella winced. The look on her face made me hate myself.
“I probably deserved that…,” she said with a sad smile.
“No you don’t,” I refuted her words contritely. “I shouldn’t have said that…I have no right to be mad. I’m so sorry Aella.”
She took her hand in mine and looked into my eyes, a look that said ‘it’s okay’ but made me feel worse for getting angry.
“It’s really not you Nicky…I’m just…I’m scared.”
After seeing Aella tear apart the Nephilim like she did, I never thought she could be afraid of anything.
“What are you afraid of Aella?” I asked empathetically, holding her hand so tightly as if I thought my gesture of affection could give her the strength to face anything in the world.
“Of this,” she answered feebly, “I’m afraid of falling in love again then being left alone.”
“I’ve never felt this way about anyone before Aella. You are my happiness and I would never leave you.”
Aella smiled sadly. She did not seem too sure of my words.
“You are not even sure of this Nicky…and ever since you met me trouble has always been near you.”
“I don’t care for what has happened to me Aella. I care for what is happening to my heart now. I care that for the little time I’ve known you, I’ve never felt so alive before.”
“I don’t think you know me Nicky…”
“I do A…you are the most amazing person I’ve met. You are beautiful and kind hearted. You are sweet and funny and you make me go crazy…”
Aella chuckled lightly at the last thought. She smiled all so briefly and then her smile melted away into a sad face.
“I don’t even know myself…You think I am sweet and fun but I’m not always this way. I am not always carefree. You woke a side of me that was dead for a thousand years and that’s what you see now. But maybe that’s just not me…”
“It is you Aella…the world may have hardened this part of you but it still exists…”
“I know it does…but maybe you love this Aella and not the other one…I’m not always going to be this way, you know.”
I could not say anything to counter that. Suddenly everything that I was sure of crumbled. I only knew her for days really, in the real world. But how long had she lived? A thousand years…
“I love you…,” I whispered to her, fighting so desperately to convince myself that I did not believe her words.
Still, doubt leaked into the words I once believed entirely just barely minutes ago.
“See, you are hardly sure…,” Aella remarked, smiling weakly.
I felt so stupid. How could I have doubted? I was so incredibly stupid…
“We can’t beNicky…at least not yet. Not until I figure out which Aella I am.”
Silence followed Aella’s words. I could hear her breathing. I could feel her warmth. I could feel the happiness inside my heart because she was here with me and I was not ready to let that go.
“I still want to be close to you,” I broke the silence, whispering lightly into the breeze.
“I do too…,” Aella answered.
“When we get out of here, I’ll prove to you that it doesn’t matter which realm we are in…that whichever Aella you are, you will always be my happiness.”
“Be careful, you may have to prove it really soon,” Aella said, a smile resurfacing on her face.
“What do you mean?” I asked, smiling because she smiled, relief filling my heart now that the tears between us had stopped.
“Nothing,” Aella answered, her smile mutating into the silliest expression I had ever seen, “just my normal nonsense.”
I chuckled merrily wondering what Aella in this universe would not be this sweet.