I walked along the edge of the sidewalk because I wanted the rain to pour down my collar, drenching my shirt. It sent chills up my spine. I loved that feeling.
People under dark umbrellas glanced my way. Their reactions made my lips curl into a smile.
I stopped at the corner waiting to cross as the cars drove carefully to avoid splashing people and hydroplaning.
Then, the rain stopped.
The downpour still fell mercilessly, just not on me.
I glanced up to see a large purple umbrella shielding me.
The street light turned, and as everyone began to walk. I turned to see the individual who thought they were doing me a favor. I had already planned my polite rebuke, but the sight of crimson lips and blonde hair falling in waves around the fur coat literally took my breath away.
The woman smiled but said nothing, and I turned continuing to walk before my face had a chance to turn as red as her lips.
She looked so familiar, but the last woman I’d ever that even closely resembled this girl was dirt poor and had raven black hair. It couldn’t be the same one.
She continued to follow me like she knew where I was going even though I’d already passed several of the streets I should’ve taken.
When we reached the Red Robin at the end of the corner, she tapped my shoulder.
“Where are you going?”
Such a pleasant song-like voice.
I forced myself to laugh, and it was obvious, which made her laugh.
“I thought I’d get something to eat here.”
She shook her head like I was crazy and put her arm around mine. I glanced at her white fur coat around my drenched jean jacket, but she didn’t seem to mind.
It made me think of Jaquelin. She had never cared for possessions. Of course she had no reason to. I really didn’t either…
Those heeled boots made her the same height as me which only intimidated me more. I was already about six feet tall. I didn’t understand why I felt so backwards. Was it because she was so beautiful? So much like many before her? It had to be her height. Those things were like a foot tall!
“They keep my feet dry,” she said without looking at me.
I could feel my cheeks and ears start burning. “I’d imagine,” I muttered turning my gaze to the ground.
I was really making myself look like a loser, but maybe she was used to that sort of thing because she laughed like she enjoyed my “bashful little boy” tactics.
Who was this woman! She certainly seemed like she knew me.
I sighed and let her lead me into middle of the downtown area. I saw the restaurant that she had to be taking me to. People pulled up in Cadillacs and emerged looking like they were going to the Grammys or a presidential dinner.
Did she need a date? Had she actually been wandering the streets to find an eligible bachelor?
I frowned and bit my lip. This would be my luck. I might have enough money to pay for this meal, if I took out another student loan. It really wouldn’t matter since she’d been kind enough to walk me here, and I really didn’t want to look like that much more of a loser in front of her. I debated over telling her I had another appointment, but I just decided to wait it out. These sort of things rarely happened by coincidence.
I wondered if this was a new tactic formed by womankind. To go in public looking finer than silk and pick up some random, middle classed boy who was obviously not in the same league then lead the poor fellow to a restaurant where a free, 5 class meal would be served and paid for.
I glanced at the woman again, and a content smile framed her lips.
I mulled over in my mind why she would pick me.
Charity. She was going to a charity cause and wanted to present the homeless boy she’d saved from the streets.
She let out a slight laugh then gave me an unbelievably attractive smile.
“You don’t remember, do you?” She lifted an eyebrow. “Or are you just trying to get out of our appointment?”
I returned her smile while searching her eyes for any signs of insanity. Maybe I was just lucky. Maybe she mistook me for the person she was meant to meet. Full moons had that effect on people. Especially during this time of February.
I went back to watching the people run from the rain like it were fire and hailstones.
“I know. I love the rain. I wouldn’t have this umbrella if it weren’t for this coat, and for the fact that this place expects us to look nice. My hair takes a very long time to dry.”
“Well, I guess I’m out of luck,” I said glancing at my dripping clothes.
She laughed again. “Oh, it’s so funny how you pretend to be poor. I’ll be honest, I almost didn’t recognize you.”
Pretend to be poor. How funny. Like I actually had to pretend.
But I was pretending to be someone she knew, and for some reason, this whole experience felt like a coin toss. A very probable chance that this could go swimmingly or completely burst into flames, but I would roll the dice.
I knew better than to ask her name, so I smiled casually.
“Tessa,” she replied.
I breathed a sigh of relief. This wasn’t so bad. Maybe she was the person I was supposed to meet after all. I hadn’t expected this, though. But she did seem like she knew me very well. She could practically read my mind with a look.
We walked straight in. The other customers had moved aside probably to avoid the dripping boy. I imagined this lady was a regular because upon seeing her, some staff immediately began clearing a table for us. A server approached curiously. Tessa walked by him casually only hesitating to point her finger at me.
“Of course, madam.”
He disappeared but returned moments later with dry clothes.
I sat down at the seat across from her and tugged a bit at the suit with a small grin. It was the fanciest outfit I’d ever worn.
Menus weren’t given to us. Food had to be preordered, which they brought out immediately. I blinked in surprise at my meal. It was my favorite. It reminded me of Elysia. She had known everything about me, from my favorite food down to how I only ate cereal after watching Grey’s Anatomy.
Tessa glanced over the food then looked up with her hands folded under her chin, and her elbows resting on the table. Her violet eyes sparkled, and it sent goosebumps along my arms.
I knew exactly who she was. There weren’t many people with eyes the color of midnight clouds.
“How long did you wait?”
I smiled sheepishly. “I walked around for about two hours.”
A cut little giggle emerged before she tilted her head with big eyes and pursed lips.
“Poor boy.” She then laughed at her own sarcastic pity party and spread the napkin across her knees. “So sorry, Adrian.”
I shrugged it off with a smile. I was fine with anything because it was becoming increasingly clear that no one would be responsible for having to pay for this meal.
As she picked up the silverware, her eyes widened, and she bit her lip excitedly.
“You were surprised to see me, weren’t you?”
I shrugged. “When you described yourself, I didn’t quite think…”
“Think that I would actually match the description?”
She threw her head back in laughter making the blond hair spill over her shoulders like a golden veil.
I returned the smile.
“No, I just imagined you with darker hair.”
She had told me that she would find me, and she had.
I managed a smile then turned my attention to what really interested me, the medium-well charbroiled steak sitting perfectly over a bed of some kind of fancy rice. Tess also began to pick at her food.
“What’s the problem, Dimitris?”
The chewed bits of steak seemed to stick in my throat after hearing her refer to me as that. I forced them down and looked at her. The corner of her mouth curled into a smirk.
“Or would you rather me call you Adrian? Or do you prefer John? Maybe Tiberius?”
I didn’t display a reaction, which surprised her. But I wasn’t here to discuss my past lives. It was forbidden but a rule commonly broken. Especially by us.
“I’m in love…Ophelia.”
If she wanted to play the past game, then I would call her by the name of the previous her that I remembered the most.
I cleared my throat and took a sip of wine. She also took a drink and appeared as though she hadn’t heard anything I’d just said.
“Don’t you care at all for her feelings?” she whined then took another bite and looked at me with an eyebrow cocked.
I could feel the blood rising in my throat. I looked down.
“I didn’t think…”
I caught myself and sighed. She was the one who made the rules. I glanced up to see her watching me with curious glass eyes.
“I only ask questions because I don’t ask for pay. Only favors.”
Yes, and I knew exactly what her favors consisted of. I knew this “Tessa” far too well. Just as well as she knew me.
The rose petals on her face curved into a dark smile. She pressed herself forward onto her elbows and tilted her head.
“Still don’t want to back out, huh.”
I sighed and tapped my fingers restlessly on the table. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her. Not even as I shook my head.
“Don’t think me too brash, but I get the feeling that this girl loves you back. What of that?”
I rested my arms on the table. I was tired of all these questions, but I knew how this worked.
“Yes, but she could never love me. Not if she really knew me…the way that you and I know me, and I would never want her to. I’m not a good enough man.”
Ophelia raised her eyebrows then began to giggle. She looked over me and let out a long, exaggerated sigh.
“You fell hard.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Do you just want to forget?”
I looked away as memories of sunshine, star gazing, and all night movie marathons flooded my mind, but I could still see my old acquaintance sitting in front of me. Her eyes seemed to grow cold and dark as she stared at the smile that I wore.
“I don’t know. Love is a strange thing. It’s so… so…” I looked back at her. “Interesting.”
She forced a smile, but I could see the envy forming behind that mask.
“I wouldn’t know.”
She cleared her throat, and all the signs of her weakness faded away behind that arrogant smirk.
“But it isn’t for us to know.”
I ignored her snide comments and traced my finger around the edge of the wine glass. She watched me as I remembered what love felt like. Even when it was just memories playing over in my head, I could still feel it. She watched me for a long time with that cold, dead look probably until she thought I was out of memories even though I wasn’t.
“Is that why you want me to kill her?”
I looked at her and smiled. “Only because I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not with this one.”
The coy look returned to her eyes. “You just want to free her from your curse. A mercy killing.” She tilted her head and brushed some golden strands out of her face. “I don’t do many of those.”
“I don’t either.”