At 6 o'clock, the servant brought her back downstairs and showed her where the door to the dining room was before taking their leave. As she approached the door, she heard footsteps behind her and turned to look. "Oh, hello, Mr. Salvatore," she said to Damon.
Damon moved to open the door for her. "Please, call me Damon."
Elena smiled, "Then you must of course call me Elena." She walked into the dining room. Stefan and Katherine were already seated. Stefan stood up when he saw Elena.
"Hello again, Ms..." Stefan trailed off as her realized he did not know her last name.
"Please, call me Elena," Elena responded.
"I trust you like your room?" Katherine inquired.
Elena shifted her gaze to the other woman. "It is lovely, thank you." Damon pulled a chair out for her and Elena took her seat. Then Damon and Stefan sat down.
As dinner was served, Damon, Stefan, and Katherine began talking about various things while Elena's thoughts drifted. It was odd to see the brothers and Katherine on such good terms. She knew she would have to steel herself for what was to happen the next day, when all their illusions fell apart.
"Elena?" Stefan said for the third time.
Elena's gaze snapped to his. "Oh, I'm sorry Stefan. I must have zoned out."
Stefan's eyebrow raised. "Zoned out?" he asked, after a moment, unfamiliar with the term.
Elena blushed, embarrassed to have been caught using modern slang and speaking so familiarly to the Salvadore brother. "That is what my parents called it when I would daydream." You are not his girlfriend here, she scolded herself.
"Ah, I see. I was asking if you were enjoying your meal."
"Oh, yes, very much. Thank you."
Stefan smiled. Elena's gaze fell first on Katherine, who simply looked bored, and then on Damon. He had a very odd look on his face. She quickly looked back down at her plate. She had to be more careful.
After dinner, Damon asked Elena if she would like a tour of the gardens. She happily accepted the offer. She did not want to spend a moment longer with Katherine than necessary and she was liable to make more mistakes the longer she spend with Stefan.
Once outside, Damon offered her his arm and she put her hand in the crook of his elbow. They then walked into the gardens. Once they were a little ways from the house, he stopped. She looked up at him questioningly.
"How did you know my brother's name?"
She stared at him, confused. "What do you mean?"
"At dinner, you said 'I'm sorry, Stefan.' Except no one mentioned his name. How did you know it?"
Elena quickly searched for a suitable response. "I asked the servant that showed me my room."
Damon searched her face for a few more seconds before nodding. "I apologize. There have just been some... strange occurrences happening in town lately. I suppose they have made me suspicious."
"It's okay. We had some strange things happening in my town as well. It was one of the reasons I left." That was actually true, even if her town was actually Mystic Falls version 2011.
"What kind of strange occurrences?" Damon asked.
She hesitated, then decided to go with as much truth as possible, "Some animal attacks. Reports of giant wolves. There were even a couple of people accused of witchcraft. After my parents drowned, I decided it was time to leave."
Damon felt a tug on his heart. He thought of how he had felt when his mother died. "Drowned?"
Elena's face turned sad and her eyes took on a haunted look. Damon suddenly felt the urge to wrap his arms around her and protect her from harm. "It was raining. Our... carriage was on a bridge when it collapsed. I do not remember anything after plunging into the cold water. Someone that saw the accident said they saw someone run to the river and pull me out. But they said it must have been an angel or something, because one second he was standing a good distance from the river and the next he was in the water, dragging me out." Elena watched his face as she said this, to see if he would connect the dots.
She saw his eyes widen in recognition. He quickly feigned a look of confusion, "That is strange." Then his expression turned somber. "My mother died when I was young."
Elena instinctively laid a hand on his arm. She wasn't used to Damon acting so vulnerable. It made her heart twist to see the pain in his eyes. "I am so sorry."
Damon abruptly turned away from her and started walking again. Elena followed a step behind. When he reached a bench, he sat down and looked up at the sky. The sun was setting, splashing brilliant shades of red and orange across the horizon. Suddenly, he spoke, "It is my opinion that some people are destined to be happy and others are not. Some people will always win, while others will always lose. We just have to make do with the cards that are dealt to us, for the short time in which we live."
Elena winced at his words. "I do not believe that. I believe that everyone has pain in their lives and one must choose to be happy as often as possible. Life is what you make it, whether it lasts for a day or for 100 years."
Damon turned his head to look at her. He looked tired. So very, very tired. As she looked into his eyes, she thought of what was coming and she felt the urge to tell him everything, to help him escape. To save him from 150 years of pain. But she couldn't. She had to let him be betrayed, she had to let him be forced to become a monster against his will. She had to let him step on a path that would cause him to become bitter, angry, and uncaring.
Again, he felt the connection. The look she was giving him- it was like she could see straight through to his soul. Her face was reflecting his pain, as if his pain hurt her. She stepped forward and her hand hovered, as if she wanted to touch him. He didn't know why, he barely knew her after all, but he needed that touch like he needed his next breath. He captured her hovering hand and brought the back to his lips. Elena felt that brush of his lips all the way to her toes.
Suddenly, a squirrel scurried out from under a bush. The noise made her flinch. What was she doing out here holding hands with Damon? She gently pulled her hand away from his, "We should probably go back. It has been a terribly long day."
Damon stared at her a moment longer, her sudden shift in mood had thrown him off. She was a mystery to be sure. "Of course," he responded. "I understand." He stood and offered her his arm. She hesitated for a moment and then placed her hand back on his arm.
They walked back in silence. When they reached the bottom of the staircase inside the house, Elena let go of his arm. "Thank you for showing me the gardens. They truly are amazing. And the sunset was beautiful."
"The pleasure was all mine," Damon responded, once again lifting her hand to his lips.
Elena, flustered, reclaimed her hand and said a rushed good night. She then turned and went upstairs. At the top of the staircase she paused to look over her shoulder. Damon was standing at the bottom, still watching her. His eyes met hers for a second before she turned to go towards her bedchamber.
But, as she went, there was a small smile on her face.