Still, he was looking at me. He leaned close again, his eyes intensely focused.
“What?! Who was right? Derik? What are you – I don’t…” Finally, I grabbed his face in both of my hands. “Derik. What are you talking about? And why are you staring at me like you’re, I don’t know… searching for something?”
“It’s just it doesn’t make sense. It can’t be. I mean I know what she said but I always wanted to think of her as just another fortuneteller… you know, not the real thing… But she said…” He trailed off again, without really answering my question.
But, somehow, I was beginning to understand. Fortuneteller? “Sabella? Derik, you’re gonna have to do better than that for me, okay?” I held his face more firmly but I didn’t know if forcing him to focus on me would do any good, since that was the problem to begin with. So, I gave him a little shake.
“I’m sorry. It’s just difficult to see for myself…” He frowned again. “I can’t believe she could be right. I can’t. We’re not… there’s no way. I did feel a connection but it can’t be that. You can’t be…”
“…Your Other Half.” I finished for him and dropped my hands from his face.
He looked at me now, really looked at me. “How…? I don’t think you understand – no, how could you?” He stood up abruptly and paced across the floor.
I was once again stunned into silence. What couldn’t I understand? I leaned forward on the cot, too shaky to attempt to rise. “Couldn’t you explain it to me then? If we’re – if I’m –”
“You’re not!” he said, sharply and continued pacing.
Without explanation from him, the only reasonable conclusion I could come to was… “You don’t want me, then…” I murmured, but not softly enough.
He turned and was down in front of me before I could blink. I’d never seen anyone move so fast. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.” His voice was hard. “We’re not a match, it’s as simple… as that.” He dwelled on the word simple, perhaps thinking it wasn’t simple at all.
“What, I’m not big enough? Not strong enough? Not… pretty enough, smart enough? Why aren’t we a match? Tell me.” My voice was firm but also showed my desperation. A desperation I hadn’t known I felt.
“That’s not it at all…” His voice had lost its sharpness. “Most of the time a person’s other half is opposite them in many ways… and you’re my opposite in nearly every way I can see.” He looked me over, sadly. “There are no mates for… people like me. But I am what I am, and we’re too different.” He held my eyes there, trying to drill the point into my head. “It’s crazy and… even if it was possible, I’m just too dangerous for you to be with.”
There was that word again. Dangerous. What did they mean? “Glenna says you have a past, something you’ve never even discussed with her. Tell me. Let me decide whether or not you’re too dangerous. Because right now I don’t see it. I can’t see it. Don’t you think I deserve the chance to decide for myself?” Somehow we had drawn closer together as we spoke, and our faces were inches apart. My eyes trailed down to his lips and back to his eyes.
“Haylee,” he whispered. “It can never be… I don’t understand how it could…” And our lips met.
I threw my arms around his neck, and he pressed into the cot, both of us trying to get as close as possible. He placed his hands behind my neck, pulling me toward him, keeping my head in place, and deepened the kiss. Just when I thought I’d suffocate, he pulled back, breaking contact. I tried to follow him, but he held me back. We were both panting. He leaned his forehead against mine. “This is crazy.”
“I agree. Let’s keep going,” I gasped, trying to move closer again.
His hands held my head firmly in place. “No,” he nearly laughed. “Haylee, no. Though I greatly appreciate your enthusiasm, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” He was serious now.
And my heart fell. “Was it not good? I can try again…” I smiled a little.
“I’ve told you. This can’t happen. I’m afraid of what might happen to you. Besides, you’ll be leaving soon, right? If I have to hurt you now to keep you from being hurt worse later on, I will. I’m not above that.”
I frowned. “Just tell me… why it couldn’t work. Forget about me going home… If I did, who’s to say I couldn’t come back? To stay.”
“Haylee, you have to go home. It’s where you belong.” He paused. Then rushed on, “That’s why it can’t work. You have to go back to your own time, your own people. You don’t belong here, and you know it. You’ve thought it, mentioned it. This is just a glitch or something. Alright?”
“A glitch?” I frowned. “It didn’t – doesn’t feel like a glitch. How can you say that?”
“I can, because it is.” His voice was regaining some of its lost edge. “And the sooner you learn that, the better.” He stood and, when he spoke again, it was quietly. “I have to go now… I’ve got work to do. Gamut will be here soon with your dinner.” With his hand on the doorknob and his back to me, he said, “Maybe you should give more thought to how he feels about you… The two of you are much more compatible.” And he left.
I was stunned, and it was a long time before I recovered – myself or my book.
A little while later, I heard a knock at the door, and I sat up expectantly.
Gamut came through with a tray of food. “Hey there, Sunshine! How are ya’ today?” He closed the door and sat down beside me, setting the tray between us. “Do you mind if I eat with you?”
I smiled down at the bowls. “No, I don’t mind. That sounds good.”
He looked at me more closely. “Sounds good? Are you alright?” He smiled, as usual.
I returned the favor. “Yes, I’m fine… Just a little tired, I guess.” In truth, I was depressed, but there wasn’t much difference.
He handed me a bowl and picked up his own. “Tired, huh? Derik hasn’t been making you train or anything, has he?” he asked around a mouthful.
“What? No. He helped me move around the room a little, until I had to sit down. If he hadn’t come along, you probably would’ve found me on the floor half-way across the room.” This wasn’t exactly true. I may have been able to make it to the door first. I was convinced the only reason I had grown woozy was Derik’s proximity. Though I could be wrong, I suppose. Either way, I felt compelled to defend him, despite everything. Then, I became curious. “Do you like Derik?” I asked, because I knew of no other way to word the question.
“Like him?” Gamut was surprised. “Well, he’s alright, I guess… A little full of himself but…” He shrugged.
“Huh.” I shrugged too, because I couldn’t really argue with him. Derik was a little arrogant at times. But, then again, I thought I could understand that, to a degree.
Gamut and I sat and ate in amiable silence, which was nice, and his company did cheer me up a little.
He finished his food before me and set it down. I could feel his eyes on me, as I ate more slowly.
“What?” I asked, after swallowing a bite.
“You seem different… Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” He put his hand on my forehead. “You do feel a little warm. Maybe Glenna should give you some more medicine for infection… Hey, can I see where it got you? The Pale One, I mean?”
I looked at him then. “Uh… okay. It’s on this side.” I indicated my right side and lifted my shirt a little.
He gently peeked under the bandages. “Wow… that looks like it was kinda deep. Was it its claws that did it?” When I just looked at him, he said, “’Cause, I mean, they bite sometimes, too… I hear.”
After a few slow blinks, I said, “Yeah, claws…” Then, I smiled and shook my head.
“There it is. That’s what I’ve been looking for. That smile of yours, Sunshine. You’ve been overcast ever since I got here. What’s going on?”
I lowered my shirt and thought. Should I say anything to Gamut, especially considering how he seems to feel about me? I wasn’t sure. I took a deep breath. “Derik and I had an argument, I guess,” I said, pathetically.
“Oh, is that all? Derik argues with people all the time, even Glenna and – well, I’ve never heard him argue with Nate but that’s another story. The point is there’s no reason to worry about it. He’ll get over it.” Gamut put his arm around my shoulders. “And if he gives you any trouble, I’ll show him what for.”
I gave him a doubtful look.
“Hey! I’m deceptively scrappy and resourceful.” He tapped my nose.
I laughed and playfully hit his hand away.
“That’s better,” he said.
“Evidently, I’m a fast healer, by the way…” I smiled.
“Really? You mean that was worse?” He pointed at my side.
I nodded. “Yeah… much redder… I think rest has helped it.” I finished my food and sat the bowl down.
He stared for a time. “Wow… Haylee, I’m glad Derik found you in time, I really am… Even though I wish I could have been there to do it, I guess I owe him for saving your life…” This acknowledgement did not come easy to Gamut, so I knew he meant it.
“Gamut, you don’t owe him anything. If anyone does, it’s me.” I had placed my hand on his knee, then awkwardly took it back.
“That’s not how I feel. Besides, I don’t like the idea of you owing him anything. I’m sorry but it’s true. I mean, he’s always taken care of us… well, for as long as he’s been here. But I can’t help feeling something’s off with him, you know? No, I don’t guess you do… Forget I said anything, alright? Let’s just enjoy the rest of our evening.” His smile returned.
“You know, everyone’s talking about what you did… going out alone and finding the water… everything down to your single-handed fight with the Pale One…” He chuckled. “I know, I know… you didn’t fight ‘em. But that doesn’t matter. One attacked you, and you lived to tell the tale. It’s pretty amazing, really. The place is all abuzz. They all love you now,” he added, tapping me under the chin with his knuckles.
“Sheesh… really? That’s just crazy… I mean, I think I did it to prove myself but… I didn’t expect anything like what you’re describing.” I leaned against the wall behind us.
“Well, you’ve got it. And I say you deserve that and more. As far as I’m concerned, you saved us. We really needed that water.” He stood up. “Hey, I’m gonna go ahead and take this tray back to the cafeteria, okay? I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere,” he joked.
My mind reeled with everything that had happened in the last twenty-four hours and what Gamut had told me. But my thoughts were always with Derik. I couldn’t help it. Was what Sabella said true then? I felt it was… Derik, on the other hand, did not feel the same. I tried not to think about it and the effort made me tired. So, I was curled up on the cot, when Gamut returned.
“Hey,” he said, cheerily. “You look pretty tired. How ‘bout I read to you from one of these books, and you try to rest? Does that sound good?” He pulled another chair nearby.
“Yeah… that sounds great.” I yawned and pulled the blanket closer around myself. “It’s gotten cooler over the last hour or so.”
“The sun must be setting. It gets pretty chilly at night, compared to the hot temps during the day. During the rainy season, it’ll cool down considerably though. So, which one should we choose?” He began pulling books out of the stack.
“Does it snow during the rainy season?”
He stopped what he was doing. “Snow? Not here – well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it, anyway. No, it doesn’t get quite cold enough for that… Snow…” He shook his head and placed a few books back in the pile. “Here we go.” He held one up. I couldn’t make out what it was. “It’s one of my favorites.” And he began reading.
As he read, I recognized the book as The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells. I would have voiced my amusement at the pick but had grown too sleepy. It wasn’t long before I had trouble making out his words and fell asleep.
At some point, I thought I heard the door close but wasn’t with it enough to know for sure.