"No, no, back the other way, so that there's a shadow on your left side!" Cari said.
Anna turned ever so slightly, trying to find the right light for her friend to draw in.
"There! There! Stop!" Cari cried. "Hold it!"
Anna held perfectly still, waiting on her friend to give her the 'OK' to move. Anna'd been helping her with this portrait for three days, standing in the exact same spot, in the exact same pose, hoping she'd finish the portrait before the sun moved too much, and make it so that they'd have to return the next day. Anna hadn't even gotten to wear a different outfit during the day in three days because Cari needed her to wear a certain outfit for this portrait.
"Perfect!" Cari said, her mechanical pencil moving faster than lightning around the page. "Anna, sweet heart, you are the best model I've ever had!"
Anna fought back a smile, unsure of whether her friend was finished with the face on the drawing or not.
I wonder what this one's about. Anna thought to herself. I'm getting nothing from this posture, and she won't let me see this one, yet. She's so excited, though… not that that's unusual.
"I'm almost done with your part." Cari said, tilting her head to the side to get one of her 'different points of view'. "But, you still can't look! If I don't get distracted, I'll finish it tonight, and you can see it then. But, not until!"
Anna made no move to respond, though she would've groaned in disappointment. She was ready to see the picture that they'd been working on for so long. The one that Cari had called 'The Epitome of the Anna Blue Line'.
Quietly, though, Anna waited… and waited… and waited… slowly beginning to feel stiff, Anna began breathing a bit heavier, trying to hold her position, until…
"YES!" Cari screamed.
Anna jumped in shock, and fell over backwards. Cari hopped up, spinning around with her drawing before she realized how badly she'd just scared her friend.
"Oh, shoot! Anna!" She cried.
Cari hurried over to Anna's side, and reached for her hand.
"Are you alright, sweet heart?" Cari asked. "Geez… what made you space so deeply that I could scare you like this?"
Anna took her hand, and Cari heaved her back up to her feet.
"Not… anything in particular." Anna said. "I mean… I was just… waiting. I must've… dozed… just a little."
Cari put her free hand on her hip, staring at Anna.
"You can sleep standing up?" She asked.
"N-Not really… sleep. Like you said, it was just… a really deep space." She said.
"Huh." Cari said, putting her latest drawing into her big sports bag of art supplies. "Well, that would be a funny thing to capture! Someone asleep on their feet! Or, I can put in certain elements and make it scary! Or, I can…"
Anna lost track of what Cari was saying as the two gathered her things, and headed back up to Cari's dorm. She hadn't entirely told her friend the truth. She had spaced on something while trying to hold her pose for Cari's drawing. After all, she was feeling uncomfortable standing still for so long, and needed to stop thinking about the discomfort so that she could hold her pose.
Mr. Engelbert's been gone for two weeks, now… Anna thought to herself. Damien is due to return this month… I wonder… if something happened…
In Cari's room, Anna helped her put her things away, and then started to the door.
"I need to get to work, now." Anna said. "I'll be back later, alright?"
"No worries!" Cari said. "Hey, how about I come stay in your room tonight? I still haven't drawn you in those adorable pajamas yet!"
Anna smirked, and looked back at her friend.
"Yeah." She said. "I'd like that. I'll bring snacks, then?"
"Awesome! See you later, then!" Cari said.
Anna started out, heading straight for the 'Soul's Vent Music Store'. Her favorite co-worker, Laurel, was sitting outside the store, playing her guitar to attract customers. This was a very occasional thing, since it didn't always work very well. Today, though, she had a crowd of about ten people, tipping her and inching toward the store, though they weren't quite ready to leave while she was still playing.
Anna smiled, passing Laurel without greeting her, knowing that distracting her might cause her to lose concentration on the music. Inside, Anna greeted her other co-workers, and pinned on her name-tag as she went to stand behind the counter. Several customers came asking her about where to find CDs, and what would be comparable. Easily, having memorized the shelves long ago, Anna pointed them to each shelf, and helped them find the exact music they wanted.
At the end of the day, the manager patted Anna on the back as she started out, complimenting her work, today. Anna smiled, bidding everyone 'good-bye' as she hurried out the door.
Having heard Cari rave about the place several times before, Anna stopped at a pizza joint, and picked up two small deluxe pizzas. Anna hurried back, feeling she'd stayed out too late, and was making Cari wait.
Outside the dorm is where she finally met up with Cari, and apologized for making her wait.
"No, no, you're all good!" Cari said. "But, I'm starving half to death! Let's hurry and get to your place so we can eat!"
She stepped behind Anna, and began pushing her towards the dorm, both girls snickering the whole way there. At the first flight of stairs in the dorm, Cari stopped pushing Anna so they could get up without anybody tripping, only to continue pushing her once they reached the first landing.
As the girls giggled and laughed all the way up, a certain pair of ears perked up to the sound of their laughter, the head they belonged to turning to face the stairs.
Cari began pushing Anna again after they got off the second flight of stairs. For a moment, Anna began laughing again, not really noticing anything other than her friend playing around with her. Aware of her dorm mates' tendencies to make messes, though, Anna turned to watch where her friend was pushing her.
Her smile fell. Her feet stuck to the floor like super glue, stopping Cari from pushing Anna any further. Anna could feel her heart rapidly switching between racing and stopping, making it incredibly hard for her to breathe. Her fingers grew weak, and released the two pizzas she'd been holding, letting them fall to the floor.
"H-Hey!" Cari gasped. "What gives?"
Anna paid her friend little mind, stepping over the dropped pizza boxes to approach a familiar, and long-missed figure waiting just outside the door.
Two sets of blue eyes met with a bond impervious to all but the decisions of the owners of these eyes. No expression could quite display how… perfect the two felt in this moment. So, their faces stayed blank as they tried to come up with a way to properly greet each other.
Finally… after six months… Damien had returned. Was he human? Anna couldn't really tell. However… at this point… she didn't care. Not yet, at least.
Damien took a breath to speak, starting to look serious.
No… No more bad news! Please, stop! Anna cried in her head. Damien stop! How do I…? What do I…?
Cari stood up straight, having bent down to pick up the pizzas, and her eyes widened as she watched these two. How odd it'd been that Anna was so incredibly… affected by this guy's presence. And now… as Cari watched Anna suddenly shake her head, and jump at him… she could only imagine what she'd missed.
A tear spilled down Anna's cheek, and her breath started coming back to her. She could feel that she was up on her tip-toes. Butterflies stirred in her stomach as she began to realize what she'd done.
Damien was absolutely frozen, shocked at this sudden outburst from his once very shy friend. Her eyes were shut tight, and she held his shoulders firmly. His eyes remained open, as he couldn't believe what he was seeing, and was afraid the sight would vanish.
Anna fought the urge to sob against Damien's face while she held her lips against his, fighting off any sort of bad news he'd been prepared to share.
I'm such an idiot… Anna thought to herself. There are millions of better ways to shush someone… Why did I pick this one? I love him, yes… But, I never wanted to force myself on him…
Slowly, Anna released Damien, lowering herself down to stand up straight as she began to cry, burying her face in her hands. Damien finally blinked, looking down at Anna as she returned to normal right in front of his eyes.
"I'm so sorry! That was really stupid of me!" Anna sobbed. "I never meant to force this, I just… didn't want to hear… whatever he told you to tell me..."
Force? Force what? Damien asked himself. The… kiss? Did she… No, no, no, hang on! You can worry about that in a little bit! For now… was somebody following her? She was laughing when she came up…
Damien looked up to see a girl quickly scribbling all over a piece of paper resting on a big notebook. She looked up at him, and quickly sent her pencil aside.
Slowly, Damien turned back to urge Anna to look at him.
"A-Anna…" His mind was faltering just a bit, as he realized that he'd just been caught in a very emotional moment for both himself and Anna. "Let's… not worry about that yet… W-Who is this girl?"
Anna sobbed a few more times while rubbing her eyes, trying to get herself back under control.
"Shoot… I'm really sorry…" She said, turning to look back at Cari. "Cari, this is Damien. He's a friend of mine from my hometown."
Cari nodded. "I've seen the posters." She said.
Anna turned back to Damien.
"Damien, this is Cari Berner." She said. "We met a couple of months ago. She and I were coming up here to study together…"
Damien nodded, looking the girl over. Cari put away her drawing supplies, and folded her arms. Both of them were feeling rather awkward, all of a sudden, both having felt themselves very important as Anna's 'only friend'.
Anna turned to her door, and unlocked it, opening it up to let her friends in.
"Come on in. We were just about to have dinner." Anna said.
Finally, Cari remembered the gaping hole in her gut, and hurried on into Anna's room. Damien hesitated. Anna's grip on the doorknob tightened a bit.
"Do we… have something to talk about?" Anna asked.
Damien looked her in the eye, and shook his head.
"It'll wait. Engelbert will probably fill you in, tomorrow." Damien said.
Quietly, he entered the room, seating himself on Anna's bed as Cari had already claimed the desk chair, and begun munching on a slice of pizza. Anna helped divide the pizzas so that everyone got an even number of slices. She was more than pleased to see that Damien was eating normally, again, and the joy of his return was brought back in full.
Just as soon as dinner was over, though…
"Okay! I'm stuffed!" Cari exclaimed. "Now, hurry and put on those pajamas! I have the most perfect idea for a drawing!"
Anna cast Damien a brief glance before getting up, retrieving the pajamas that Cari was demanding of her, and stepping into her closet to change her clothes.
Damien cast his eyes over at Cari. The odd little brunette had gone back to scribbling on the paper he'd seen her working at in the hall.
She's an odd one… Damien thought to himself. Loud and over-excited… I am glad, though… that Anna hasn't been completely miserable this whole time.
"So… where've you been all this time?" Cari asked suddenly.
Damien leaned forward, slightly.
"I don't owe you an explanation." He said.
Cari looked up at him.
"Maybe not." She said. "But, Anna's been waiting for ages for you to return. Every time she gets a moment to space, I'm certain… she's looking at memories of you. I could see it clearly out in the hall. I know why she was waiting on you… from the look on your face out there, you were eager to get back to her, too… But, I'd like to know… what kept you apart?"
Damien watched Cari very carefully. She stared at him, a very serious expression on her face.
Well… she's nosey… but… in a good way… Damien thought to himself. You're a good judge of character, Anna…
"You could say… I was in re-hab." Damien said. "It was a very sudden move, and I didn't want Anna to know I was there, so…"
Cari looked him over, taking in his expression. After a few minutes of studying his face, she turned back to her drawing, scribbling as fast as she could.
"I'll leave after I get the base for my next drawing." Cari said. "I won't make you tell her where you were… but, if you don't kiss her again; for real this time; before the night is out, you better watch your back!"
Damien was still.
Maybe she's a good friend to Anna, Damien thought to himself. But, I think… I will have a bit of trouble getting along with her.
Cari looked over at the closet.
"Hey! Anna! Are you done yet?" She called.
Silence followed. Slowly, the squeaky knob on the door turned, and the door opened a crack.
"I-I… I'm not so sure about this, now…" Anna said, stepping out in her new pajamas.
They started out as a set of two piece white pajamas, with black bunnies all over. But, as soon as Cari purchased them for Anna, she chopped off the sleeves, and put pink satin lacing on the left shoulder, and blue satin lacing on the right. Then she took the pants and cut out the knees, putting a blue satin patch on the left knee, and a pink one on the right.
Anna loved the pajamas. She really did. It was the modeling she was uncomfortable with. Damien was here now, after all. She wasn't entirely sure what he'd think of the modeling she'd been doing.
Damien looked Anna over, smirking at how little her style had changed, despite having a pushy new friend. Anna turned bright red, looking down at her feet.
"Don't you worry, sweet heart." Cari said. "He's going to be in this one, too."
Both of them turned to Cari, looking at her in surprise.
With a bit of fussing to get them into the right places, Cari soon had Anna lying on her bed, and Damien lying on the floor, reaching toward each other without ever touching each other.
Cari drew as fast as she could, only looking up once in a while to be sure of the details, or have Anna tweak the way her hair or pajamas settled on her.
As promised, just as soon as Cari had Anna's image complete, she put the drawing into her bag, saying that Damien's part of the portrait would wait for another time. She left her collection of drawings of Anna for them to look through.
Anna, though confused, bid 'good night' to her friend, and closed the door behind her.
She went to her desk, sitting down in the chair. Damien turned to face her, though Anna was staring at the big notebook left on her desk.
"Engelbert isn't asking much of us, now." Damien said, wanting to get this over with. "He only wants to erase our memories of the whole… vampire mess."
Anna turned to him, shock evident on her face.
"We can be kept in the same room for this. And he promises to replace any memories we want to keep, making up an entire cover story for whatever we'd like to keep." Damien said. "Obviously, he wants us to talk this over first, and figure out the story we want to replace the lost memories. It's not bad news, just a bit… annoying."
Anna sighed heavily, leaning back in her seat.
"Actually… that's fine." She said. "I've kept a journal of everything. If he can use his vampire powers to fabricate a cover story for the vampire thing, and let me keep every other memory, I would be just fine."
Damien nodded, having figured she would feel that way.
"I should be fine with that, too." He said.
They stared at each other for a moment. At this point, they probably would've started fabricating their story… but, they needed to clear up a few details, first.
"So…" Damien said. "Out in the hall…"
Anna sat up straight so that she could lower her head.
"I'm really sorry about that." She said. "I didn't want to force myself on you like that… It was just so… spontaneous."
Damien lowered his head a bit.
"I… wasn't upset… by that…" He said.
Anna raised her head slightly, hoping to gain something from his expression. But, all Anna could see was a slightly embarrassed, uncertain expression, reflecting her feelings exactly, she believed.
"I-It's not like… it was meaningless…" Anna said. "I mean… I… I've… really… liked you… from our very first encounter…"
Damien looked up at her, now. Neither of them felt as though they were getting any sort of signals from each other's expression.
"I didn't want to show you… like that…" Anna said. "After all… I… wanted to let you decide… whether we would… or not…"
Damien could feel his stomach fluttering, something that only happened when he was around Anna.
All this time… He thought to himself. She… I could've told her at any time, and we could've been together the very next day. I'm such a coward…
"But, if you don't, I'm fine." Anna said. "I mean, I don't want to mess things up between us. That's the only reason I haven't told you up until now. So, please… don't worry about my feelings. Yours are the ones that-"
"I love you."
Time stopped. Anna found herself unable to move as she stared at Damien. Damien watched her, worrying about how that'd come out. There was at least seven feet between the two of them. He should've at least waited until he could be standing next to her. But, now, it was too late. All he could do was wait for Anna to react.
Did he… no… I don't know… Anna thought, time beginning to start up again. Perhaps… I just didn't hear him… He's a quiet person, most of the time… and I'm sitting farther away from him than usual…
Slowly, Anna rose from her seat, and stumbled over to Damien, sitting just a few inches away from him.
She took a breath to steady herself, and turned to look him in the eye.
"S-Say that again." Anna said. "I…"
Damien could see the doubt in her eyes, and reached for her hand, taking it firmly in his.
"I love you, Anna Blue." He told her, gripping her hand a bit tighter as he spoke. "I've loved you for so long… I haven't told you out of mere cowardice… something only you can bring out in me."
Silence fell between the two. Suddenly, everything seemed clearer. Like a fog had just lifted off of them, so that they could see what they'd been dancing around for so long. Curiosity began to set in.
Now that I've told her, and learned that she feels the same… Damien thought to himself.
... Would it be alright to move closer to him? Anna asked herself.
The two of them moved at the same time, shocking each other as they got close enough to touch. Slowly, timidly, Anna reached up, and gently touched Damien's face. He lightly flinched beneath her touch, a reaction only Anna would ever know in him. Trembling at the thought, but, daring to test the limits, Damien reached his arms around Anna, and pulled her closer to him.
The two couldn't find it in them to speak. Not this time. Enough had been said for now. This time, Damien took the lead, and leaned down to give Anna a gentle kiss on the lips.
The contact was like lightning, shocking them both. Save for the moment in the hallway, neither had ever known what it was like to kiss someone like this. And now… to finally know it… and know that they were finally free to just be together, and share as many of these kisses as they liked… comfort fell upon them both.
Though unwilling to part, an odd noise began to bug Anna and Damien. Very reluctantly, Anna broke away first, and both turned to see the door was open, and Cari had come back, and was sketching something like the mad-woman she was.
"Oh, no, no, no! Come on! I almost had the brief sketch that I could build off of later!" Cari said. "Couldn't you ignore me just a little while longer?"
"Alright! I'm gone! I'm gone!" She said.
The next day, Anna and Damien met with Engelbert, their story at the ready, and had their memories erased in a matter of hours.
Now, neither ever really missed anything, as they attended school together, graduated together, and began working their solo careers, their first songs ever reaching high marks on the Top One-Hundred Hottest Songs list of the year they were released.
Cari remained a friend to both of them through the years, doing cover art for their albums, and making animated music videos for their songs.
But, all along, Anna and Damien could always feel that one year of their memories just didn't feel quite right… Not that it ever bothered them for long. After all, they were about to start a tour together. The tour would be called the 'So Alone in Your Heart' tour, and Damien was particularly amped up for this one. Anna couldn't be sure why. She just knew it had something to do with a recent lump in his pocket. She never suspected it when he stopped, in the middle of a concert, and knelt down before her, retrieving a small box from his pocket…