The clock in my room read 10:30 as I flopped onto the bed, wide awake and bored. As I lay there, the awkwardness of being alone in the house while Ian and his parents slept began to unsettle me. I tried not to imagine Ian shuffling around two floors above me as he got ready for bed. I tried not to wonder what kind of pajamas he wore or what he was doing right now. I tried not to picture him lying in his rumpled bed, thinking as much about me as I was about him but the more I tried not to think about him, the more I did. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d better find something better to do than obsess over the sleeping Ian; sometimes my imagination was too dangerous for me to be left alone with it. I decided the best thing I could do was take Mrs. Wallace’s advice and make myself at home. Jumping out of bed, I started to make for the wall of movies in the next room, but the call of the jacuzzi tub as I passed the bathroom door was too loud to ignore.
Thrilled by the chance to indulge in such luxury I made my way into the bathroom, wishing I had a book to read while I soaked. I suppose I could have borrowed a book, but the idea of reading a book that wasn’t mine, while I bathed seemed a little weird. I was just about to start filling the tub when I remembered my backpack was lying in the backseat of my car. I hadn’t bothered to take it out since break started and in it I had not only a book to read, but also, I realized with a sudden wave of relief, my contact case and my glasses. In a flash I was up the stairs digging through my coat pocket for my keys, praying that Ian had put them back after he’d moved my car. Breathing a huge sigh of relief once I found them, I pulled on my Chucks and crossed the foyer as quietly as I could and unlocked the front door, the dead bolt turning with a deafening clunk.
The blowing snow bit into my skin and stung my eyes as I ran to my car, something I should have known better than to do. Two steps from the car, my feet gave way and I fell, with a bone-jarring thud, to the ground. Soaked, frozen and in pain, I crawled to the car and used the side mirror to pull myself up. Wincing, I grabbed my backpack out of the car and gingerly made my way back to the house.
Back in my room, my teeth chattered uncontrollably as I gathered my things and headed for the bathroom. My stupid expedition to retrieve my backpack hadn’t gone as well as I had planned but it did make me appreciate the hot water, swirling around me as I settled into the tub, a whole lot more. It wasn’t long before the water washed away all traces of my stupidity and I was able to lose myself in the pages of my book.
I had every intention of staying in the tub until the water turned cold, but strange noises drifting in through the vent made me cut my bath short. A bone-chilling tingle ran down my spine as I stepped out of the bath and the room filled with an awful, eerie moan. I tried to remain calm as I got dressed and finished getting ready for bed but another moan and a sudden scream sent me into a sheer panic. A blood-curdling screech filled the room as I grabbed my glasses and without thinking I flew into the bedroom, slamming the door behind me.
The moans, groans and screeches I hoped to escape in the bedroom only grew louder. Terrified beyond all reason, I ran into the family room screaming, as I came face to face with the awful, disfigured form of a mutilated zombie. Not knowing what else to do, I fell to the floor and curled into a ball, hoping the zombie wouldn’t notice the trembling mass at his feet.
“Lyla! Lyla are you okay?” a strangely human voice called out in the dark.
Too scared to answer, I simply lay there, hoping the zombie wasn’t already eating whoever it was that had just called to me. A second later, the darkness which had surrounded me so completely was shattered by a brilliant light and I felt myself being caught up in the strong arms of some unknown stranger. For a brief moment I was afraid it was the zombie who held me but when nothing started chewing on my head, all my fears vanished.
“Lyla, it’s okay, you’re okay,” Ian’s rich voice cooed as I felt his arms close tighter around me.
Too afraid to do anything else, I wrapped my arms around Ian’s waist and buried my head in his chest, my body shaking as I tried to force the images of that awful creature from my mind. Relief washed over me in waves as I realized that wherever it had come from, it was gone. It was gone and Ian had been the one to save me.
“Lyla, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I thought you were asleep.”
“Huh?” I mumbled as I tried to make sense of what Ian was saying.
“If I’d know you were still awake, I never would have started playing.”
“What?” I cried, pushing myself out of Ian’s arms as the truth began to sink in. “You mean that was…”
“Just a game? Yes.”
“Oh no,” I groaned as an awful sinking feeling settled in the pit of my stomach. I had just experienced one of the most terrifying and now humiliating moments of my life and Ian, of all people, had been there to witness them both. I felt like such a fool.
“When you said you were afraid of zombies, I didn’t know you were…”
“Terrified beyond all reason? Yeah. I’m a freak.”
Knowing the odds of the floor actually opening up and swallowing me were slim, I did the next best thing I could, I grabbed one of the blankets that lay draped over the couch behind me and threw it over my head, curling myself back into a ball in the process. I’m sure I looked stupid, hiding under a blanket, of all places, but I didn’t care. I’d already humiliated myself, what did it matter what I did next? Curled up in my makeshift cave, I hoped that Ian would go away and let me wallow in my mortified misery alone.
“You know, you don’t have to hide anymore,” Ian chuckled, “I turned the game off.”
“I’m not hiding from the zombies.”
“You don’t have to hide from me either. I’ve known you were a freak for years.”
“Wow, thanks,” I muttered as Ian peeked in under the blanket and gave me a crooked little smile.
“Anytime. Now, why don’t you come out of there and go pick a movie.”
“Yeah, I’m assuming that after a scare like that you’re not going to be sleeping for a while, and since I’m the one who scared you it’s only fair that you subject me to whatever awful movie it is you most want to watch.”
“Who says it’s going to be awful?”
“Well if it’s not, then that’s not much of a payback.”
“Good point. Okay, I’ll pick something, but you can’t comment on it, at all.”
“Fair enough. So, I never thought I’d see any girl from school walking around my house in a pair of my mom’s pajamas,” Ian announced as I began scanning the massive wall of movies. “I have to admit, it’s a little weird.”
“You think it’s weird? Try being the one wearing them. I feel like a dwarf trying to wear a giant’s clothes.”
“I guess my mom is a bit taller than you,” Ian chuckled.
“You think?” I grinned I looked down at the folds of flannel that buried my feet and the sleeves that covered all but the tips of my fingers.
“So what’s with the glasses?”
“What’s with all the questions?”
“Just curious; I didn’t know you wore glasses.”
“That’s because I never wear them.”
“Because I don’t like being called Laney Boggs.”
“Trying to avoid the artsy stereotype, huh?”
“How in the world did you that?” I asked, shocked that Ian knew who Laney Boggs was.
“My mom,” Ian grumbled.
“Right,” I grinned, turning back to the movies.
“So have you decided on a movie yet?”
“I think so, but I’m not sure Edward is really torturous enough.”
“Oh believe me, it is,” Ian groaned.
“Are you just saying that because you’re tired of me looking or because you really don’t like the movie?”
“What guy in his right mind would ever like that movie? It’s such a chick flick.”
“I didn’t think it was that bad.”
“Of course you didn’t, you’re probably one of those girls who stood in line for hours at the theater, drooling over the poster while you waited to buy your ticket.”
“I may have been drooling, but it wasn’t over a poster, I wasn’t even a year old back then.”
“Yeah, you know, when it first came out?”
“What movie did you pick?” Ian asked, looking totally confused.
“See for yourself,” I grinned, chucking the movie at him, which he caught without batting an eye.
“Yeah, what else would I pick?”
“I don’t know, when you said Edward, I thought you meant…”
“I know what you thought and honestly, I’m a little disappointed. Surely you can give me more credit than that. I mean, if I’m going to obsess over a vampire it’s not going to be one that sparkles.”
“So you’re not a fan?” Ian sighed, in what sounded kind of like relief.
“I didn’t say that, I’m just not obsessed. Personally, I prefer a vampire with a bit more edge and if I was going to fall for one it’d be Zero Kiryu, ”
“Not Kaname Kuran?”
“How in the world do you know about him?”
“At the bookstore, remember? You were flipping through Vampire Knight.”
“So I decided to check it out.”
“No you didn’t.”
“Yes I did.”
“It’s alright, but I still like Black Jack and Astro Boy better.”
“I thought you said you hated manga.”
“I never said that.”
“Yes you did, at the bookstore, you…”
“I never said anything about manga, I only asked if you were into it.”
“Yeah, but your voice, the inflection…”
“I just wanted to see if you really were into it or if you were just trying to impress me.”
“And how would I know whether or not you’re into manga in the first place?”
“I don’t know, maybe Jack told Yuuki and Yuuki told you or something.”
“I think they have better things to talk about than you and your reading habits,” I chuckled as I flopped onto the couch. “So what have you decided? Am I fake?”
“That depends, who wrote Vampire Knight? What’s the name of the school? Who are the main characters? What’s the basic plot of the story? ”
“Hino Matsuri wrote Vampire Knight; she also wrote Meru Puri, Kono Yume ga Sametara, and Toraware no Minuoe, in case you were wondering. The school is Cross Academy, which is divided into a day class and a night class, humans and vampires, respectively. Yuuki Cross is the heroine, her adopted father, the Chairman, runs the school, Zero and Kaname are the love rivals, and the plot is too complicated to go into details. There, are you convinced yet?”
“I suppose I am.”
“Good, now can we start the movie? I’m starting to feel like I’m under interrogation.”
“Sure, but don’t think you’re getting off the hook that easily. I still have more questions for you.”
“Why, am I really that fascinating?”
“Maybe,” Ian shrugged, his answer causing my heart to skip a beat, “or maybe if I keep talking to you, I won’t have to actually watch this.”
“Nice,” I grumbled as Ian flicked off the lights and started the movie.
Sitting next to Ian, in a dark room, watching Edward Scissorhands in a pair of his mom’s pajamas, wasn’t exactly how I’d intended to spend my evening, but I had to admit, it wasn’t bad. I would have preferred to be wearing my cutest pair of pajamas and a bit of makeup but since Ian was dressed in a pair of shorts and an old soccer camp t-shirt and it was dark anyway, I decided it didn’t really matter. It wasn’t like Ian was all that interested in me anyway.
“So, you work at the ice cream shop downtown, right?” Ian asked, not five minutes into the movie.
“Yeah, at Stan’s.”
“Why don’t you work for your mom? I mean, she owns a chocolate shop, right? Wouldn’t it make more sense to work for her?”
“I don’t see how. My mom’s the one who insisted I work at Stan’s.”
“Wow, she must really not be able to stand you,” Ian chuckled.
“Ha ha,” I groaned, “No. When Stan died, Stella really needed some help and since she’s a good friend of the family, my mom suggested I help out, so I did. I was going to go back to my mom’s shop after Stella hired more help, but my mom insisted I stay at Stan’s.”
“Because it’s a good job, because Stella’s a great lady to work for and because my mom doesn’t want me to feel obligated to work at the shop. Being Willy Wonka is her dream, not mine, and my mom’s very good at reminding me of that. She’s told me a million times that the shop is her dream and that I have to follow my own.”
“You mean your mom’s okay with you not taking over her shop someday?”
“Of course she is. Like I said, she wants me to follow my own dreams, without being tied down by hers. Why? Aren’t your parents like that?”
“Ha,” Ian scoffed.
“So, I take it your parents are pushing for you to follow in their footsteps?”
“Something like that.”
“So how’s that gonna work? Are you planning on being a musical doctor or something? I suppose music is therapeutic, you could always sing to your patients while you treat them.”
“Very funny,” Ian said dryly.
“Sorry,” I mumbled as an awkward silence settled between us. “So, are both parents hoping for a mini-me or just one?”
“Let me guess, your mom?”
“You’re very perceptive.”
“I knew that bitterness had to come from somewhere. So what is it, exactly, that she wants you to do, become the next Beethoven?”
“Something like that.”
“And what you’re not too hip on that, huh?”
“So what is it you want to do?”
“Play soccer,” Ian sighed.
“What’s wrong with that?” Ian asked, suddenly defensive.
“Nothing, I just never would have expected the school’s genius to say that he wants to play soccer for a living, that’s all.”
“Sorry to disappoint you.”
“I’m not disappointed; I think it’s cool.”
“Yeah, I mean if soccer is what you love, then why not go for it?”
“Do you realize you’re the only person to ever tell me that?”
“Seriously? What about your dad? I thought he seemed pretty cool.”
“He is, as long as we keep my future out of the conversation. The day I told him what I wanted to do after graduation, his head nearly exploded.”
“It wasn’t pretty.”
“So how do you deal with that? Not having your parents support and all. I can’t imagine what that must be like…I think I’d die if my mom didn’t…”
“Yeah, well not all of us can have freak relationships with our parents,” Ian snapped.
“Right,” I sighed, turning my attention back to the TV.
A few minutes of tense silence was all I needed to see that my conversation with Ian was over for the night. Not wanting to endure another hour of awful silence, I decided it’d be better if I just went to bed; that way Ian could fume in peace and I wouldn’t be a source of further provocation. Without saying a word, I got up from the couch and headed to my room, all the while wishing Ian would ask me to stay, but he didn’t and I left to spend the next couple of hours tossing and turning as sleep eluded me, wondering if things with Ian would ever go right.