For Shereen Kazansky in Cape Town. Miss you! This probably went in a different direction than you expected, but I hope you like it.
I wasn’t born this way.
His face spoke the words before his lips did, but the inevitable vocalization of the thought followed a sigh, the empty tone heartbreaking and aggravating.
“I wasn’t born this way, you know,” Tom said, eyes downcast.
“Yes, I know,” Emma said, hiding a smile. He was delightful and so entertaining when he was being melodramatic.
“I know you’re laughing at me,” he frowned and looked up in time to catch the twinkle in her eyes being chased off by a perfectly innocent expression.
“I’m sorry.” Emma tried to look contrite. “But do we have to go through this every time you have an episode and there’s a near miss?”
“You could have been that near miss,” he said, clouds in his eyes.
Emma knew that. The thought of it sent a spike of adrenaline racing into her body. But disaster had been averted without mishap. She climbed back into bed beside him and put her head on his chest.
“Shall I tell you how this conversation is going to go?” Without waiting for an answer, she launched into her pantomime, complete with hand gestures and facial contortions. “I’m evil! No, you’re not. But there’s something evil inside me! Maybe, but there’s also a lot of goodness inside you. How can you say that after what almost happened?! I can say that because it almost happened. I’m a killer! You’re being dramatic. I should leave, rid the world of the scourge…Now you’re being really dramatic…If only I could end it all. Oh, to live forever, neither living or truly dead, blah, blah, blah, you watch too many movies made by people who know next to nothing and are shooting in the dark.”
His pained expression only made her smile widen.
“You don’t understand, Em. Sometimes it’s almost overpowering. At any time, just one more second, a tiny tip in the wrong direction and I would break…”
“But you don’t,” she said. “And I understand perfectly. You need breakfast. I’ll go make some eggs. Do you want toast?”
“You know that’s not what I want,” Tom said.
She rolled her eyes. “Just stay there and try not to drown in your black humor. I’ll be back in a moment.”
Emma jumped out of bed, pulled the robe on, and went out to the kitchen. As she pulled eggs and bacon out of the fridge, thoughts of the vagaries of time and fate and the minds of people tumbled through her head.
Tom was given to bouts of drama. It made for an interesting relationship. One could always slap some label on it, but really what did that do? Tom was Tom and he had his quirks and foibles. It was what made him human. Even if he didn’t think he was. Anymore, at least.
She pulled bacon from the pan and cracked eggs into the sizzling fat. Tom had tried to explain what it was like, what he had become all those years ago. It wasn’t like being hollowed out and filled with something dark, evil and inhuman. No. In his words, you were left with all your human compunctions and morals and given a terrible desire alongside them; the two warred and often desire won.
And of course there were casualties and collateral damage for him to brood over. Like what had happened last night. Which was precisely nothing. But it could have been more and that scared him.
Emma would be lying if she said it didn’t scare her at times, but if she let fear rule her life, she would never get in a car or eat sushi. In fact, she would curl up in a ball under the covers, close her eyes, and wish for eternal, numb sleep.
She stirred the eggs and scraped butter over the toast. There was no regret in her life regarding Tom. She wouldn’t trade the world of magic and fantastical things he’d shown her and made her a part of for anything. Even if sometimes the magic was dark and the creatures that thrived in its presence darker, one just had to be a light brighter than the darkness and it ceased to be a problem.
“I’ve been thinking,” Tom announced when Emma returned to the bedroom with plates of scrambled eggs, bacon, and mounds of buttered toast. “We should get away. Go on holiday. To the Old World.”
“That sounds nice.” She sat next to him, handing him a plate. “Where to exactly?”
Emma choked on her bite of toast and then she saw the sly lift at the corner of his lips.
“Or Italy,” he shrugged and popped a forkful of eggs in his mouth. “That would be fun. We could visit the leaning tower and eat gelato in Rome.”
“I’m glad to see your mood is improving,” she said. “I like you better when you’re not moping.”
He grew pensive, chewing on a strip of bacon with a closed look on his perfect face. That gave Emma pause. Usually when he came out of his funk, he would stay out until a later episode pulled him back. But today his preoccupation clung like a stubborn fog.
“What’s up?” she pressed. “Don’t shake your head at me. Something more is bothering you, more than usual.”
“I just don’t think you’re taking this seriously enough.”
“You’re taking it seriously enough for both of us,” Emma said. “I’m fine. You’re fine. Everybody’s fine. What is left to brood about?”
“What makes you think I’m fine?” he asked softly. “I haven’t been fine for a long, long time.”
Emma wanted to tease him about being melodramatic, but the words stuck in her throat. He wasn’t usually this hard to cheer up. Something about last night had left him with a lasting terror. Emma thought about it, going over every last detail and understanding dawned.
“You’re worried about me,” she said. “How sweet.”